February 8, 2024
Dover, UK council warns of bankruptcy risk as government pulls US$3.7 million port check funding
Dover District Council (DCC) faces potential bankruptcy as it grapples with the withdrawal of GBP 3 million (US$3.7 million) in government funding earmarked for port checks, crucial for inspecting imported food and preventing diseases like African swine fever (ASF) from entering the UK, BBC News reported.
Responsibility for ensuring the safety of imported food falls on DCC, but with the sudden funding cut, the council is left to fill the financial void, a move that threatens to exhaust its reserves significantly.
Deputy leader of DDC, Jamie Pout, said that without adequate funding, the council would be forced to make tough decisions regarding essential port health services.
Despite the funding shortfall, DDC remains committed to upholding national interests, even if it means local taxpayers shoulder the burden, Pout added.
Concerns over the potential risks of ASF entering the UK have been raised by port officials and MPs, who argue that funding cuts to spot checks could exacerbate the situation.
A report from DDC outlines that the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to slash 66% of port health authority funding from Dover in 2024/25, with further reductions expected in 2025/26.
These cuts not only strain DDC's financial resources but also raise the issue of a section 114 notice, signalling financial distress akin to bankruptcy.
To offset the funding shortfall, DDC estimates it would need to allocate a significant portion of its council tax income, reaching 33% in the coming year and escalating to 47% by 2025/26.
Defra, while acknowledging the strategic importance of the Port of Dover, noted the conclusion of a financial support package for local authorities and port health authorities in June 2024.
- BBC News