Redbridge Council cuts heatwave and terror attack response budget by £150K

PUBLISHED: 17:45 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:52 27 March 2019

Spending on emergency planning has decreased. Photo: Steven McAuley

Spending on emergency planning has decreased. Photo: Steven McAuley

PA Wire/PA Images

Redbridge Council has cut spending on emergency planning - which includes anything from a heatwave to terror attacks - by more than £150,000 over the last five years, figures reveal.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data. Photo: ArchantMinistry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data. Photo: Archant

Between April and December 2018, the local authority spent £132,737 on planning for civil emergencies, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data.

During the same period in 2013, the council spent £298,050, after the figures were adjusted for inflation - a real-terms cut of 55per cent.

Local authorities are usually expected to bear the full cost of preparation and recovery in the event of any disaster but the Local Government Association (LGA) warned that some councils are more focused on preparing for Brexit due to “ongoing uncertainty and lack of clarity” about leaving the EU.

In planning for a no-deal outcome local authorities are conducting risk assessments, hiring extra staff and building up financial reserves, in case of a chaotic exit.

“It is helpful that councils have received some government funding to support planning work for the impacts of a no-deal exit,” said Councillor Simon Blackburn, of the LGA, said.

“However, there remain gaps in the information and advice that councils need, and in some places, the resources provided do not cover the costs that are being incurred.”

Across England, spending on emergency planning has dropped significantly in real terms, from £39.3 million in 2013 to £25.9 million last year.

Jacqui Semple, chairwoman of the Emergency Planning Society, said: “Funding restrictions have hit all public services, and there is no doubt that emergency planning has seen a reduction of its budget in recent years.

“But while it is frustrating for staff, it has in no way diminished their preparedness and resilience.

“Councils are still very well equipped to deal with any emergencies.”

Speaking about Brexit she added: “A lot of time and effort has been spent on preparing for Brexit over the past 18 months, including a lot of training, exercises and investment.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was providing councils with an extra £58million to help prepare for Brexit, and increasing funding in real terms.

“Local authorities are independent, and must make provision for civil protection, including emergency planning and response,” a spokeswoman said.

Redbridge Council said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data does “not tell the whole story”.

“Whilst we’ve reduced our overall annual budget to £150,000, we still have the same number of staff – three- whose role relates to emergency planning and our overall resilience has increased because we are part of a tri-borough arrangement with neighbours Havering and Barking and Dagenham,” a council spokeswoman said.

“This means we can call on staff, expertise and resources from across all three boroughs if needed.

“We’ve also adopted a whole council approach to emergency planning with highly trained senior officers being on call in the event of an incident and we have many volunteer officers signed up to support our efforts in major emergencies.

“If there is a major incident, we have further funding set aside to fully resource our response.” 

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