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Health and social care issues ignored due to ‘dominating’ Brexit says council leader

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Brexit is dominating the UK political scene so much that important issues closer to home are being ‘kicked down the road’, according to a North East council boss.

Speaking after the Local Government Association (LGA) annual conference, Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council (DCC), said problems with funding, the NHS and social services were deepening year on year.

But despite the warning signs, he claimed too much Parliamentary time is being taken up with leaving the EU to properly address them.

He said: “The government has pledged more spending for the NHS, but unless there’s something more substantial with adult social care as well it’s not going to work and with children’s services there’s just more children coming into the system.

“Everyone accepts these are big issues which need to be looked at and properly resourced.

“Things are not sustainable as they are, but Brexit is dominating the political agenda and crowding everything else out.

“In Parliament it’s all Brexit all the time and other things are being kicked down the road.”

Coun Henig also accused the government of a lack of clarity over its Brexit plans and of failing failing to share its research – even though ‘the government knows Brexit is going to have a negative impact on the North East’.

The conference was one of the first showpiece appearances by James Brokenshire, who took over as minister for housing, communities and local government following the promotion of his predecessor Sajid Javid to Home Secretary.

The DCC leader said Mr Brokenshire’s speech to the event had lacked detail of specific policies.

However, he did praise the announcement of a new government fund to improve local authority web services.

Durham has already made improvements to its online offering, such as making permits for waste facilities available via its website.

But he said he hoped it could provide further impetus to extend quality internet provision to rural communities.

He said: “I think it puts the emphasis to look at all aspects of the issue and we have to make sure everyone can access these services.

“It’s not as easy [somewhere like County Durham] as it is in an inner city borough because we have a larger area which brings its own issues.

“We’ve been trying to roll out broadband, but we keep needing to do more.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service