Rotherham Council's no-deal Brexit fears revealed

A MISCONCEPTION that EU migrant communities will leave Rotherham after Brexit could fuel hostilities, a council briefing warned.

Building and maintaining relations in the central part of town will continue to present a “significant challenge”, the paper said.

Other Brexit considerations by Rotherham Borough Council have included the effect on its supplier organisations and house building.

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The documents were revealed this week after a freedom of information request by People’s Vote, which is campaigning for a second referendum.

A briefing paper prepared for RMBC bosses in January said: “The expectations of those people who are hostile to Roma or other EU migrant communities may be that leaving the EU will reduce their numbers locally. 

“When it becomes apparent that this is not happening, there is a risk that anti-Roma or anti-immigrant sentiment will increase and fuel extremist agendas, which have been witnessed in other EU countries, notably Italy and Hungary.”

The same briefing said tensions and conflicts could be reflected in schools too and the potential need for more support has been acknowledged.

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There are about 8,000 EU citizens in Rotherham who are not British or Irish, half of whom are Slovak or Czech Roma.

The number of reported hate crimes in the borough rose from 344 in 2016/17 to 515 in 2017/18, council figures show.

The Advertiser reported in March that a second referendum could also bring problems. At the time, RMBC said it was ready to hold an election if required - but described potential community tensions as very concerning.

Another risk memo circulated between senior council leaders noted that Brexit could have an effect on delivering Rotherham’s 900-a-year target for new houses.

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It said the trialing of prefab properties, which could speed up delivery, could help mitigate against the risk of skills, materials and labour shortages because of Brexit.

The council has been exploring offsite construction methods and signed a deal last summer for 22 council houses to be made this way.

By the start of the year, the council had a business continuity plan in place in case of a no deal Brexit.

This covers a range of risk areas, including procurement, staffing, community cohesion, schools and economic regeneration.

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The council also surveyed 25 of its suppliers - most of which were care firms - and found there was concern about the number of nurses and worries about home care clients being affected by a shortage of medicine.

One supplier said it envisaged no impact, saying prices were as likely to reduce if there was any movement. 

Most said their businesses did not rely on goods or services supplied from the EU.

The council is also supporting EU migrants with settled status applications, with sessions hosted at Riverside House and Swinton Library.