Brexit: Anger as government set to spend five times more on 'propaganda' than helping councils prepare for no deal
£20m fund for local authorities dwarfed by £100m set to be spent on 'public information campaign' on no deal
Government ministers have been condemned for spending five times more on no-deal Brexit "propaganda" than on helping local councils prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
On Saturday the government announced a £20m fund to help councils with no-deal planning and ordered every local authority to appoint an official to work with the government and oversee preparations.
But critics pointed out that the sum is dwarfed by the up to £100m that will reportedly be spent on a "public information campaign" designed to inform people about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
The £20m funding for no-deal preparations equates to only around £60,000 per council.
Labour MP Jess Phillips, a supporter of the People's Vote campaign for a second referendum, said: "It is a sign of how out of touch the government are in their efforts to force a destructive Brexit on the country that they are planning to spend five times more on no deal propaganda than on helping local councils prepare for the calamity of such an outcome.
“No deal is about as far away from the promises made by Boris Johnson and the other leaders of 2016’s leave campaign as it is possible to get. Then they told us we’d get a 'great deal' and we did not have to worry about the disastrous impact of no deal. Now they want to flood the country with adverts promoting a policy they all know is broken and will threaten public health, stability and even food supply."
She added: “The idea that £20m across the 343 principal councils of England is enough to prepare is an insult to our intelligence and to the hard work of public servants struggling with the consequences of the Government’s decision to force a vicious Brexit on us."
Andrew Gwynne, the shadow housing and communities secretary, also criticised the announcement, saying it offered "no new money and no new ideas for how to address the cliff-edge councils are facing".
He said: "Under the Tories, 60p out of every £1 that the last Labour government invested in our councils has been cut – with the most deprived parts of the country hit the hardest.
“This Conservative government is only interested in looking after the super-rich and cannot be trusted to fund the local services we all rely on. Labour will properly invest in our councils and we will always act in the interests of the many, not the few.”
But Robert Jenrick, the new housing and communities secretary, insisted that the money would ensure local councils are prepared for Brexit on 31 October "whatever the circumstances".
He said:“From Whitehall to town halls, everyone needs to be ready to fulfil our democratic mandate to leave the European Union by the end of October.
"Local government has a vital role in helping to make Brexit a success and it is absolutely right that together we intensify preparations in every community."
He added: “I want all of us – central and local government – to be fully prepared for leaving the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances. I know that we can achieve this, by continuing to work side by side with renewed national focus and intensity.”
The Local Government Association also welcomed the move.
The group's chairman, councillor Kevin Bentley, said: ”The government has listened to our calls recognising the central role councils play and that more resources are needed for their Brexit preparations. The funding announced today will help councils continue to co-ordinate their efforts.
"With councils already facing a funding gap of more than £3bn in 2019/20 it is more important now than ever that councils receive the resources they need for their on-going Brexit preparations."
But he added: "There remains information and advice gaps that councils are facing while helping their communities prepare, which need to be met by the government. Councils also need certainty to plan for their communities over the longer-term, such as on the domestic replacement for EU funding."