Brexit woe not over for Argyll and Bute

Argyll and Bute Council chief executive Pippa Milne

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Tourism, the aquaculture industries and the struggling care sector in Argyll and Bute look set to face continuing recruitment issues following Britain’s official departure from the EU this year, says a council chief.

The end of free movement of working-age people from Europe is likely to contribute to the ongoing issue in Argyll and Bute’s of a falling population, according to a report by Pippa Milne, chief executive of the authority.

European nationals currently resident in the UK have until June 30, 2021, to apply for  settled status or permanent residence in the UK to continue living here.

But it remains ‘unknown’ at this stage how many existing EU citizens will decide or be allowed to stay, with applications decided by the Home Office.

The care sector, which struggles to recruit, is a particular concern because Argyll and Bute’s growing older population needs support staff.

Ms Milne said: ‘Retaining and attracting staff into the care sector, which is a growing sector in Argyll and Bute, will be impacted by the loss of free movement of economically active EU residents to our area.’

The council is also facing a new pressure because of the requirement now that Scottish exporters have to demonstrate an Export Health Certificate for sending goods to the continent.

This includes shellfish suppliers, including West Coast delicacies such as mussels, langoustines, lobster and crab.

Ms Milne described this as the ‘single greatest risk’ facing Argyll and Bute as the council expected it to generate a fresh demand on stretched council resources with an additional 1,000 EHCs being required across Argyll and Bute alone.

The EU is the area’s largest export market for shellfish as well as being a key market for fresh salmon.

Special hubs were set up in South Lanarkshire to help reduce the bureaucratic burden on councils across Scotland.

But suppliers still require some official paperwork from Argyll and Bute Council which would remain ongoing by request, she said.

Ms Milne said this had also had a ‘significant impact’ on council resources and had needed to be completed ‘at the expense’ of other statutory work the council is legally required to carry out.

In terms of the pandemic, Ms Milne said employment levels across Argyll and Bute may also be further impacted following the end of the furlough scheme.

Some jobs may not be retained once the government financial support ends in September.

She added: ‘It is possible to draw comparisons with the economic recession of 2008 – 2009 where UK employment levels did not return to pre-recession levels until 2017.’

Going forward, public sector organisations and local government including Argyll and Bute, may also face a financial ‘squeeze’ due to reduced income to governments and need to reduce national deficits.