Dorset Council is trying its best to plan for the ‘unknowns’ as a result of Brexit and the ongoing lack of certainty.

One of the fears is that unfounded rumours on social media may start unnecessary panic buying of food and fuel – when there is no need, causing problems for more vulnerable people.

Dorset Council's Director of Place John Sellgren told councillors yesterday that it was wise to anticipate “a degree of disruption”, which he said the council was planning for, but warned that the situation would only be made worse by false information and unfounded rumours.

He said the council was doing its best to plan for every contingency but there were still risks which might be unknown because of the lack of certainty in which direction the country was heading.

The authority is preparing to deal with shortages of food and fuel and carers not being able to travel, leaving vulnerable people at risk. The problems are ranked as ‘medium’ as Dorset Council prepares for the worst.

The audit and governance committee heard that preparations were also made for public disorder and a rise in hate crime as well as the potential for a build-up of rubbish.

Difficulties in recruiting or retaining EU workers within adult social care and the NHS, as well as among the council’s own workforce is also listed as a potential risk in the area.

Councillors were told that if there were shortages there could also be a rise in prices which would impact the council’s finances – although money could be drawn from its reserves of £28 million in the short-term.

The council is working on emergency planning with all of uniformed services, including the Army, and co-operating with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council in the event of disruption for imports and exports at Poole port.

Mr Sellgren told councillors that weekly meetings to plan for the worst were pencilled into the calendar up to the end of this year and beyond and would not be stepped down until there was certainty.

Dorchester Cllr Richard Biggs said that the last time there were rumours over fuel people went out and bought what they could – running fuel stations dry in a day, despite being told there was no need.

“This is the biggest risk of all – it will affect all of the business of the council,” he said.

Mr Sellgren said that in the event of fuel shortages social care workers would have to prioritise who they could visit. He said the council had made contingency plans for its fleet of highway maintenance and refuse collection vehicles to get fuel, as had the NHS with ambulances.

“The worry is that panic buying of fuel and food could be started by unfounded rumours which would not be very unhelpful,” he said.