Portsmouth city council leader demands full £4m Brexit bill is paid by government after funding announcement

GOVERNMENT cash to cover a no-deal Brexit in Portsmouth has been criticised as a ‘drop in the ocean’ – and ‘far too little, far too late’.

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 4:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 10:01 pm
Cllr Gerald Vernon Jackson Picture: Habibur Rahman

The city council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson is furious that despite Portsmouth and Hampshire spending £4m on no-deal preparations, the most recent round of government funding saw Portsmouth given just £150,000 to help with preparations.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced the cash, which brings the city’s total preparation funding to £286,000 after £136,000 was given in March.

This week the government announced an extra £9m will be made available.

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In total, the city council has forked out £1,007,584 in preparation of a no-deal EU withdrawal to mitigate traffic congestion on roads and process vehicles at the port.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the cash to help with Brexit was ‘far too little, far too late’. He said: ‘Combined with Hampshire County Council we have spent £4m preparing for Brexit and this funding is a drop in the ocean.

‘That £4m could have gone to school classrooms or helping the homeless. I am asking the government to give it back to us because that money deserves to be in Portsmouth.’

‘What we have done is we've been out and we've spent the money because we have to, we can't allow government inaction and inefficiency to crucify Portsmouth.’

The funding can be used by local areas to support the development of robust Brexit plans for their areas and for continued preparedness activities, including additional staffing costs.

Concerns have previously been expressed that traffic will clog roads, including the M27 and M275, as customs queues build at Portsmouth International Port amid tightened border security measures.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local resilience forums – made up of representatives from local public services, including the emergency services, local authorities, the NHS and the Environment Agency – will receive a £158,200, a share of £4m in additional funding between 38 forums. Southampton City Council is also set to get £150,000.

Mr Jenrick said: ‘From keeping our supply chains running and ensuring goods continue to flow into the country, to putting robust plans in place for every community, local government is playing a vital role in preparing the country to be fully ready to leave the EU on October 31.

‘We recognise Portsmouth and Southampton are playing a crucial role in ensuring a smooth transition for businesses and residents after we leave the EU on October 31, and that’s why we’re giving over £450,000 of additional funding to support these areas to boost their Brexit preparations.’

Local authorities in Kent will receive more than £2.6m.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘It does seem to be that they are not taking a no Brexit deal seriously enough.’