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Former staff on standby to help council with potential Brexit problems

PUBLISHED: 05:30 23 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:26 23 August 2019

Potential problems on the movement of goods between Europe and the UK post-Brexit are being considered by East of Suffolk Council for the Port of Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Potential problems on the movement of goods between Europe and the UK post-Brexit are being considered by East of Suffolk Council for the Port of Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Recently retired council staff in East Suffolk could be drafted in to help with post-Brexit problems at the Port of Felixstowe.

Stephen Baker, East Suffolk Council chief executive, said inspections and additional traffic were among the issues being considered for the Port of Felixstowe post-Brexit. Picture: SIMON PARKERStephen Baker, East Suffolk Council chief executive, said inspections and additional traffic were among the issues being considered for the Port of Felixstowe post-Brexit. Picture: SIMON PARKER

East Suffolk Council was one of 29 authorities close to ports and airports to be given £150,000 in government cash to prepare for potential problems that could arise once the UK leaves the EU.

According to the council's chief executive Stephen Baker, while 85% of Felixstowe's freight is to and from countries outside of Europe, the port could still be under pressure come October 31.

There are fears that logjams at southern ports such as Dover or Southampton, which take more European freight, could prompt shipping firms to spend an extra day or two at sea to travel to Felixstowe to avoid congestion, thereby increasing the port's traffic.

Currently, it is not expected that goods coming in from Europe post-Brexit will be subject to any additional checks but it was not yet clear whether that will change ahead of the anticipated October 31 withdrawal date, or whether Europe would impose extra checks on freight coming from the UK.

"We have upgraded a lot of the IT we have and we have trained staff in a wide range of stuff they might have to deal with," Mr Baker said.

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"We have got a pool of staff we can call on to help if we end up with a backlog, so for instance people who are recently retired."

However, Mr Baker confirmed that would only be a short term measure if needed, and proper posts recruited if anything longer term was necessary.

The council said it was being mindful of issues around imports and any products which might be in shorter supply, and said that any issues may not be seen until several weeks or months after November 1.

Three other areas where work is continuing is in fishing catchments, supply of organic products and any administrative work for freight that stops off at Felixstowe on its way to another destination.

As well as the £150,000 for East Suffolk, Suffolk Local Resilience Forum - a group of public service organisations which prepares for emergencies and major events - will also get a share of £4m, expected to be around £100,000 from government cash.

It is understood the resilience forum is looking more at areas of emergency such as potential shortages of fuel or medicines.

Earlier this year, Suffolk's council leaders and chief executives agreed to pool £35,000 grants for each local authority for Brexit prep into a single pot to support the county's small and independent businesses,

A separate grant of £136,362 was awarded in February to the then-Suffolk Coastal District Council for port preparations.

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