Former Brexit Secretary David Davis’s Tory-run council has warned it faces a “perfect storm” of staff shortages if European immigration is reduced after Britain leaves the EU, with the potential for “market failure” in social care.
An East Riding of Yorkshire Council report obtained by The Yorkshire Post highlighted the potential for a “massive shortfall” of staff in the social care sector which could have a “disproportionate effect” on the area given its relatively older population.
The Brexit impact report, released under Freedom of Information laws, also warns of potential shortages in the council's highly skilled workforce, including the likes of teachers and engineers, as well as staff in jobs perceived to be unattractive such as cleaning.
It came as Prime Minister Theresa May wrapped up her three-day trade mission to Africa with a visit to Kenya, in which she defended her Chequers plan for Brexit and announced the rolling over of current free trade arrangements with the country.
The PM also asked whether Britain would be more prosperous and powerful in the world as a result of Brexit, replying: “There are indeed opportunities.”
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She added: “We are pursuing, of course, a good deal for trade with the EU once we’ve left the EU but we will be looking to enhance our trade relationships around the rest of the world as well.”
The Government has yet to set out how it intends to manage migration from the EU after Brexit, although Mrs May again made clear yesterday that ending free movement of EU citizens is “non-negotiable”.
In a December Brexit impact report, East Riding Council, which will have received £500m of EU funding between 2007 and 2020 and covers Mr Davis’s Haltemprice and Howden constituency, highlighted the potential for staff shortages in high and low skilled jobs which are already experiencing “severe difficulties”.
It is “very likely that these shortages will become a more serious problem as a result of Brexit”, the report said.
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“The wellbeing of the remaining workforce, it is to be expected, will correlate negatively with difficulties in recruitment and retention and levels of public spending,” the council added.
Despite the authority having a relatively small proportion of EU nationals within its workforce, estimated at 1.6 per cent, they tended to be “clustered” in “traditionally hard to recruit areas” which are “more at risk from a negative impact of Brexit”.
The council has already faced issues with contractors, for example Spanish and Portuguese architects working on construction consultation returning to the EU, and said contracts for major engineering projects such as roads, were often supplied by a high number of EU immigrants.
The report said: “In a nutshell, where the council has issues now, these are likely to be amplified by Brexit. In order to proactively manage the risk, caused by this perfect storm of high employment, reductions in migrant labour, low public spending, and the authority’s population demographic, the solutions to mitigate Brexit will need to be targeted, cohesive and given priority.
“There is a clear and pressing case for support across the social care sector to change both the perception of social care as a career and expand the social care workforce, as there is an ongoing risk of market failure due to the impact of Brexit on existing resourcing challenges.”