[To receive an update from Martyn Sargeant, Head of Governance.]
[Report will be sent to follow.]
The Board received a presentation from the Head of Governance and designated Brexit lead regarding the Council’s preparations for Brexit.
The Board agreed that there was clearly a huge amount of work going on and queried how the risks were being communicated to the public so as to not create panic.
The question was raised as to whether the issues were similar to and being addressed in a similar manner by most authorities; it was confirmed that yes this would be the case in most areas.
Some Board members considered that the Council should be basing preparations on a worst-case scenario and that an audit of risk was required with the appropriate resources allocated to achieve this.
It was stated that the information provided highlighted just a fraction of the work that was going on and had been going on for some time and that preparations had accelerated given a hardening of the government’s position.
The Board noted that there were many cross-cutting issues that would required coordination. It was explained that the Resilience Team was working to aggregate these areas and draw the strands together. This would them feed into the oversight group.
The Board queried whether the Council would be able to respond and react quickly if required to do so. The Chief Executive stated that this was why the Council retained reserves within the organisation and that the Section 151 Officer and her colleagues had made provision for certain eventualities. It was agreed that the pace of response was vital and issues such as how to get food to people who most needed it were high priority. The Council was currently working with the relevant people and organisations to address these issues and talking to other organisations about the provision of quick short-term funding support for small businesses.
The Board considered the importance of communications and the issues that may arise around food and medicine. It was considered important that the communications systems in place at the Council be robust and that it be made clear to the public how and when they should seek to contact the Council. The Council needed to ensure that plans were in place to provide enough staff to deal with public enquiries.
The Board queried whether the issues referred to in the presentation could be prioritised and it was confirmed that this could be done and that information from a number of working groups could help to inform this.
The Board expressed concern regarding the potential shortage of prescription drugs for long term illnesses.
The Director for Public Health stated that health was a key partner who the Council were in direct and constant contact with and that checks were being carried out to confirm what we had and what systems were in place.
In relation to the supply of medicine, equipment and staff the Director for Public Health explained that the NHS provided oversight on this. It was thought that the greater concern was not the supply of medicines but the perception of the supply of medicines. It was not so much about protecting the supply but about managing the message and the public perception.
The Board queried what work was being carried out by the Local Resilience Forum and how robust their plans were. It was stated that in the run up to March, there had been two exercises across the region based on a worst case scenario. This had included weekly conference calls at a strategic and tactical level and direct links to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which had a division to deal with resilience issues. The Council had been stood down about May/June, but things were now starting up again.
The Board questioned the financial implications and impacts that some of the issues raised would have. The Chief Executive stated that some of these financial inflationary factors would arise regardless of Brexit and that risks associated with these were already factored in. It was stated that in any event the Council would consider all of the intelligence available to it and factor this into any financial plans and ensure that appropriate provision was made following a comprehensive risk assessment. The main issue with Brexit was one of scale and this was as yet unknown, but it was confirmed that each part of the organisation had a resilience plan and that this had been taken into account.
The Board considered how best councillors could assist in the planning and it was thought that the real impact from councillors would be in the communication of plans and arrangements to constituents and in engaging community groups, so they could help out as well. The role of councillors would be to signpost their constituents and provide a balanced and factual line of communication.
Resolved: That a communications plan be drawn up to consider the involvement of councillors in Brexit preparations and that this be brought back to Scrutiny Board when appropriate.