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Suffolk leaders back plans to use Brexit cash to support small businesses

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Suffolk leaders have backed plans to pool tens of thousands of pounds in Brexit planning cash to support small businesses in the county.

In January, local government secretary James Brokenshire announced that each local council in England would receive £35,000 for Brexit preparations.

During the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders (SPSL) meeting earlier this month, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal district councils chief executive Stephen Baker announced plans for all of the councils in the county to pool their cash and support small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

UK and European Union flags. (7656542)
UK and European Union flags. (7656542)

“If we push that as a single pot and work with the chamber [of commerce] we can use that to tackle one area that is really suffering – SMEs,” he said.

The plans follow on from a dedicated £136,362 pot being granted to Suffolk Coastal specifically for Brexit planning surrounding the Port of Felixstowe.

Suffolk Resilience Forum – a group comprising key services across the county for tactical planning and response to major events and incidents – has also been carrying out work on Brexit planning, according to Mr Baker.

Opposition groups at Suffolk County Council had voiced criticism over the lack of public information from Suffolk’s authorities in planning for various Brexit scenarios.

Questions on multiple occasions to Suffolk County Council by opposition councillors failed to gain any concrete details. To date, no Brexit strategy has been published in the public domain either.

But during the SPSL meeting of all council chief executives and leaders, Mr Baker issued assurance to the public that planning was underway.

“Suffolk Resilience Forum are worried about stockpiling and shortages but there is no reason to panic.

“We have to look at this objectively. We have a plan for every contingency.

“From a local government point of view we are preparing a coherent, cohesive response to central government, and we can give that assurance to the public that we are absolutely on top of the game.”

The public sector leaders have also issued a ‘Suffolk Narrative’ which, in an accompanying report, says aims to highlight the county’s “global ambition” and “highlight Suffolk’s unique strengths/offers that could contribute to UK prosperity more widely.”