Government's £136,000 boost for Portsmouth International Port falls ‘significantly short of amount we need’ under no-deal Brexit, says council leader

CRISIS planning for the port under a no-deal Brexit has been handed a £136,000 boost – but the city council’s leader has said the government funding is nowhere near the £4m needed to tackle possible traffic congestion caused by delays.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 9:32 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 10:34 am
Sir Vince Cable, left, and Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council at Portsmouth International Port last month Picture: Malcolm Wells (190108-1903)

Senior politicians, police and civic chiefs have repeatedly said the risk of a slow down at Portsmouth International Port after Brexit could have devastating consequences for traffic on the M275 and M27.

Now government has handed over a slice of £1.5m set to be given to all port authorities in a bid to help Portsmouth City Council, which owns the port, better prepare ahead of next month’s exit from the European Union.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the city council, said: ‘We’ve been waiting to hear how much Portsmouth would receive when a £1.5m funding pot was announced.

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‘While we’re grateful for financial help to support Brexit preparations, it is still going to cost £4m from the council’s budget to handle potential traffic issues in a no-deal scenario.

‘This 3.4 per cent contribution falls significantly short of the funds needed.

‘It is not a cheap solution to manage the impact at a major port such as Portsmouth, so I’d urge Penny Mordaunt MP to lobby the government to contribute the remaining 96 per cent of funds required to prevent the council spending millions from its own budget to put effective plans in place.’

The council is set to get £136,362 under an announcement due to be made today by housing, communities and local government secretary James Brokenshire.

Portsmouth port relies on a fast turnover of goods under the roll-on, roll-off system of freight.

A delay to this could see lorries backed up on the motorways in a short space of time.

Contingency planning has seen the council obtain land to use as a lorry container park rather than ask drivers to wait on gridlocked motorways.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘After many meetings with council officers, city councillors and partners such as the emergency services as well as government ministers regarding Brexit planning for Portsmouth, I've lobbied for more funding to help both here in Portsmouth and at other ports.

‘I'm pleased that the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government today will announce more funding to assist each port authority. This is additional to the financial settlement already announced that I have lobbied for to help with the planning as we leave the European Union.

‘I will continue to work with the local authority, the resilience forum, the port officials and am due to meet again with government ministers at the Department for Transport on this matter.’

Hampshire’s local resilience forum has raised alarm about the risk to the port and the consequences for traffic. Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry said it was a ‘difficult and complex situation’ with delicate negotiations involving government.

The resilience forum has written to transport secretary Chris Grayling with their concerns.