No-deal Brexit: Wokingham Council can’t release plans

Picture: Reimund Bertrams from Pixabay

No-deal Brexit preparations plans will not be released by Wokingham Borough Council.

The People’s Vote campaign asked in May to see all of the preparation plans and risk assessments from councils in the South East through a Freedom of Information request.

While some neighbouring councils provided information, Wokingham Borough neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such documents at the time and again last week.

It said to reveal that would be a breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The council referenced exemption clauses in the act which says organisations can withhold information if revealing said plans could “prejudice” the government and “the effective conduct of public affairs” or “inhibit the free and frank provision or advice” and “exchange of views for deliberation”.

Its official response read as follows: “The information which has been requested includes considerations relating to the UK exit from the European Union.

“Under s36(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, in my opinion disclosure of confirming or denying that we hold the information would likely have the effects referred to in s36(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and as such, we therefore neither confirm or deny such information is held.”

However, not all councils turned down The People’s Vote request.

Woking Council sent over its planning and said: “It is anticipated that Woking Borough Council will be fully prepared if the UK does leave the EU on March 29 [the original departure date].”

In Sevenoaks, the council is worried on medical restrictions, more rough sleepers on the streets and problems due to lack of public transport and fuel.

Their report warns that: “Local shops unable to restock, more vulnerable public may not be able to travel further out for food” and “Loss of street lighting or traffic systems causing disruption and hazards to road users”.

Sutton Council warns “There is a risk of civil unrest due to both the outcome of the process and as a direct result of failure of services and supply chains.”

People’s Vote supporter Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, said: “These documents reveal the truth that Boris Johnson’s Government is desperate to hide from the public – No Deal would be disastrous for London as well as for the rest of the country.

“No Deal is not what anyone voted for, whether they voted Leave or Remain in 2016. No-one voted for less money for the NHS, possible shortages of food and medicine, waste piling up on the streets or an increased risk of civil disorder. Brexiters promised a brighter future for London and for the whole UK, but what they are delivering is the exact opposite.”

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Wokingham Borough Council, said: “I think it is very strange anything Wokingham could say would have an affect on the Government’s negotiations.

“For a council to decline a FOI on these issues leaves me rather surprised. They could say what activities have been covered, with anything restricted redacted.”

Cllr Ferris added that residents had been stopping him in the streets sharing their concerns over issues raised by the Government’s own preparations, such as lack of medicines.

“I think residents are entitled to know what is being planned,” he added.

“People need to know so they can prepare.”

And Cllr Andy Croy, leader of Wokingham Labour group, said: “We are in a situation where the Government does not want people to know what No Deal means. If they did, even more people would be against Brexit. It’s a mad scheme that can only succeed by keeping people in the dark.”

He said that he’s sat on several committees where Brexit had come up for discussion.

“There are no [Government] negotiations going on with Europe. It’s nonsense that this can be jeopardised by Wokingham Borough Council.”

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