November 2018: Brexit Risk Assessment
In his assessment of Brexit risks Simon Hubbard identified the following features of the economy of Hastings which render it particularly vulnerable to consequences of departure from the EU. Most of them follow from the assumption of a worsened economic climate in the event of “no deal”:
• An economy which relies heavily on tourism, particularly from overseas, with the majority of these from EU countries, and as part of this, foreign language schools;
• Home to a high profile under-ten metre fishing fleet;
• Significantly higher levels of poverty and ill-health than the average;
• Predominantly a small business economy;
• A substantial care industry;
• “Traditional” success in obtaining European funding for economic, cultural and social inclusion projects.
Among the risks he identified were that –
1 The successor funding regimes to European programmes might be more narrowly focussed and have lower value than current programmes. Additionally, the council may lose the ability to work as a lead partner in a programme or bit independently depending upon future arrangements.
2 An economic downturn might postpone or delay infrastructure investment in projects like the extension of high-speed rail to Hastings, Bohemia and the next stages of A21 improvements.
3 An economic downturn may adversely impact the current finances. For instance, the take up of HBC’s land holdings may fall and anticipated developments become more difficult to move forward. The council depends upon asset disposal and income earned from developments to deliver its services.
4 Local business performance may be impacted, leading to a fall in added value and potentially to loss of jobs in local companies.
5 The Hastings tourism industry, which has been focused on high value overnight visitors often from the continent, may be impacted by both travel restrictions and a negative image in the mind of European “customers”. This could be particularly significant in respect of the language schools, worth an estimated £30m to the town, if parents/guardians of students perceive their children will be unwelcome here.
6 Local poverty may increase if there is an economic downturn, which might also impact upon demand for council services.
7 There might be difficulties in both the private and public sectors in obtaining suitable employees. Of particular concern to the public sector would be shortages of care staff, medical staff, teachers and others. There would be no short-term way to produce high numbers of qualified staff from within the UK. This might put added pressures on the council and particularly its staff and their families. A downturn in education or medical service is likely to be reflected in staff absence to deal with the needs of family, particularly children.
8 There is a risk of a food and medical supplies shortfall. Government and NHS are looking at the medical issues because of concerns that access to drugs might be difficult at least temporarily. How customs operate at Dover/Folkestone/Newhaven/Gatwick and other key transport hubs will be key to the ultimate level of risk.
9 There is a risk of heightened tension of different kinds, including of more widespread disorder.
Mr Hubbard concluded, however, that the issues were primarily national ones: “the council’s ability to influence most of them is in reality very limited”.
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