POLITICAL leaders have locked horns over whether to publish a document outlining Wiltshire Council’s plan following Brexit, which the council say is confidential.

Liberal Democrat leader Ian Thorn was not given access to the document after he refused to keep details a secret from the public.

A meeting was called last week for all party leaders at County hall to discuss what the local authority has in place if and when the UK leaves the European union on October 31.

Leader of the conservative run council, Philip Whitehead said the document must not be published because it has confidential information, but Cllr Thorn believes that the authority is patronising the public by refusing to share their plans.

He says he was told to leave the meeting after he refused not to share information with the press or public.

Cllr Thorn said: “I was made aware by Wiltshire Council of a proposed Brexit document. I asked to see it and there was corporate silence. I was then invited to come to a meeting with other leaders and officers.

“But the crux of the matter was the document would only be shared if I guaranteed confidentiality and when I turned up it turned out everything in the meeting was meant to be kept confidential too.

“I understand not sharing information which may well be commercial but it seems like they are treating Wiltshire residents somewhat like children to say they can’t know.

“I understand that if it might lead, for example, to stock piling of fuel which could be dangerous that this information should not be shared, but I did not feel I could look a resident in the eye and say this document will effect you but I’m not going to tell you and of the details.

“Philip and I had an exchange for 50 minutes but it was clear there would be no compromise. I said if a date when it would be published was agreed I would agree to confidentiality but it seems it is never intended that this document will be made public.

“I don’t believe that none of this document can be shared, even in a redacted form.”

But council leader Philip Whitehead said the plans confirm the county is prepared for Brexit.

He said: “His position was illogical because he wouldn’t agree to keep confidentiality until he had seen and then he may not agree.

“The meeting went ahead but he wasn’t in it and another leader, Ernie Clark stayed and was impressed with what he saw.

“We wouldn’t discuss anything to do with children social care or adult social care that is confidential within the council and this is exactly the same.

“There are commercial aspects but within the document there is also companies that might be named with certain problems and if those are published that company could go bust.

“He needed to know if we are prepared or not and we are prepared.”

Leader of the independent Ernie Clark was present at the meeting but did not wish to comment.

In October 2018 Cllr Thorn called for a comprehensive cross-party Brexit risk and impact assessment for all council services, but was turned down.

Last month corporate director Carlton Brand revealed the council has a team of officers crunching the numbers over what a possible no deal could mean for the county.

He said: “They are looking at things like food and supply shortages and also medication shortages. We are planning for possibilities, but it might never actually happen. We can only plan to a point.”

In November 2018 the fire service informed that plans were being put in place for how emergency services would respond if issues surrounding food and medicine supplies were to materialise.

Byron Standen, head of prevention and protection at the fire service, said: “We have been pre planning for Brexit. If no deal is made we need to understand what that might mean for our resilience. There are a number of issues which could potentially arise if no deal is made.

“Issues with food supplies and medicine may lead to civil unrest and we need to know what would be our plan, it may be a stretch and there isn’t a report per say but it is a concern and we will have a better understanding if it is likely that there will be no deal so we can react in an appropriate way based on these planned assumptions.”

In august 2019, Central Government confirmed £20m will be made available to local councils to help with Brexit preparations.