‘Increasing food costs and staffing care homes’ are top of the list of no-deal Brexit fears for Pembrokeshire County Council.

Of matters within its control the local authority has developed a ‘Brexit Preparedness Strategy’ and a working group met to discuss plans for the first time this week,

Cllr Bob Kilmister, cabinet member for finance, told members of the corporate overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (September 12) that he had been elected chairman of the working group and it would be expanding its membership.

“There’s nothing concrete to work on at the present moment, we will know more by the next meeting and I expect that group will have a lot of work to do as Brexit progresses,” he said.

Director of communities Steven Jones said the strategy was “comprehensive” and identified potential risks likely to affect the council and the county.

Cllr Reg Owens asked about stockpiling in anticipation if no-deal and the committee heard there was some plans when it came to vehicle parts for the council fleet.

When it came to other items it was believed that “stockpiles within the UK” were sufficient to avoid supply issues although costs may rise.

“The biggest risk in terms of that is not necessarily being able to get products but that they are more expensive,” said Cllr Kilmister, adding that a budgeted contingency would be sufficient this financial year.

Two sectors were at the biggest risk – school meal cost and delivery and domiciliary care – for the council, not Pembrokeshire in general, the committee heard.

For example, the cost of chicken for school meals could increase by £19,000 according to the strategy, and the council’s main supplier will hold an additional three months stock on most likely affected items including frozen chips, pasta and fruit juice.

Its been asked to increase the volume of tinned fruit in stock “due to the uncertainty of fresh fruit supply.”

Many school meal ingredients are sourced locally, including potatoes, milk and beef, which should mean no supply issues.

The strategy outlines concerns about supply of heating oil, timber and spare parts for Parc Gwyn crematorium, residential homes’ worries about medical supplies and staff, with one social service provider employing 32 EU nationals.

‘Port Health’ could “face significant new demands” according to the strategy including 24/7 working and increased costs as it deals with exporting animals and animal products.

Pembrokeshire as a whole could be impacted by an increase in families and people experiencing hardship and poverty as well as an increase in hate crime and public disorder, the strategy states.

“Disorder could result from prolonged shortages of essential goods, such as food, or from people engaging in opportunistic crime if law enforcement agencies are perceived to be stretched,” it adds.

Changes to the population could also occur with EU nationals leaving and an increase of ex-pats returning to the area impacting services.

The Brexit Preparedness working group will meet next month and report back to cabinet.

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