How can the city council not be making any preparations for Brexit?

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Britain is due to leave the European Union next year

And so, to Brexit. We had to, eventually.

Not that I want to discuss the merits of leaving the EU in whatever form that eventually takes, since that is a topic which appears to be exciting almost no-one.

Indeed, the population of the district generally seems to be dazed by the whole thing, bored to stupefaction with the incessant carping of everyone who has a point to make or dizzy with confusion as to which fat cat chancer is going to benefit most.

In fact, the only people I’ve come across who have raised the issue have been angry red faced elderly white men, two of whom have screamed around their front doors at me recently, spouting some incoherent bile about not voting until they get their sovereignty back. Which at the very least suggests they’ve rather misunderstood how democracy works.

No, what bears some thought is the position of our own dear Canterbury City Council.

This week, leader Simon Cook confessed that the authority had made no contingency plans and done no scenario testing about the potential impacts of Brexit. His reason? “It’s unclear what we’re preparing for.”

Now you might think that knowing an enormous change is coming, and being able to understand that it will impact among other things our universities, which have lots of foreign students, our hospitals, which employ lots of EU nationals, and our tourism, which attracts huge numbers of overseas visitors, might prompt at least a little more depth of thinking than that.

Then if you add in the potential for chaos on our roads, shortages of medicines and forecasts by central government of potential civil disorder if things don’t go well you might have the tiniest inkling that maybe having some sort of contingency in place by March next year could, just possibly, be a good idea.

Certainly talking with the key employers in the district might be prudent, getting to understand what they think, gauge their mood and the risks to our economy and people, as well as how to maximise any potential benefits that might arise.

Not our council, though. No, apparently it can only plan for things it knows about in detail.

When you think about it, that explains quite a lot about the quality of planning and decision making that takes place here. Because if you follow Cllr Cook’s logic, the council wouldn’t have done any planning at all for, as an example, the massive south Canterbury housing development.

After all, we don’t know quite when those 4,000 homes are going to actually be built, and we certainly don’t know who is going to live there or how many cars they’ll have or where they’ll work, shop and play.

So it would seem, from the argument put forward by Cllr Cook, that doing some advance planning of things like bus routes, forecasting traffic growth, assessing environmental impact, education and health needs, and all that other troublesome detail, well, it would just not be possible.

Because, as he says: “Even if we knew precisely what [it] looked like it would be very difficult to get our crystal ball out and see what exactly will happen.” So that’s that: if we don’t know something precisely, we’re going to stick our hands over our ears and shout “lalala!” very loudly until it goes away. Or the whole district grinds to a halt.

But, of course, up to a point that planning is exactly what the council is doing. Badly, in most people’s eyes, but it is being done.

So, the biggest challenge most of us have faced, Brexit, isn’t being faced up to not because it is imprecise but because this council is doing its best impersonation of a rabbit caught in the headlights.

It is exactly because of the scale of the changes that are coming that they should be talking and planning for the new world. That they are not demonstrates that short-sighted inertia is not confined to central government, but seems to infect the whole Conservative Party.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Extraordinary that the local Labour Party has just woken up to this when the Lib Dems pointed it out a week ago. But then from Chuka Umunna to Kate Hoey they are as split as the Tories on the EU anyway

  2. Extraordinary that you haven’t twigged this is a weekly, not a daily, column. And that its opinion, not news. And that it’s NOT “the Labour Party” position but a personal view. Other than that, you’re doing well.

  3. And another thing: this is my 40th contribution: so can I assume that Clrr Eden-Green accepts that I’ve been first to the issue the other 39 times?* Or is his whinge a baseless bit of point-scoring?

    * I don’t actually claim to have been first every time – that isn’t the point of a comment column!

  4. So pleased Dave Wilson agrees with what I said two weeks ago. His extreme defensiveness shows I hit a nerve over Brexit. But then neither he, nor anyone else in the Labour Party, can represent their position which it seems is no more than a string of personal opinions!

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