Local government leaders are meeting today (Tuesday 5 July) to ensure councils play a leading role in negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The Local Government Association is also seeking urgent assurances from the government that councils will still receive the £5.3bn in EU regeneration funding they have been allocated up to 2020 following the referendum result.
This is money which is earmarked to create jobs, build new infrastructure and boost growth across the country.
More than 1,300 council leaders, councillors, officers and national politicians will gather at the LGA’s Annual Conference, which begins in Bournemouth today (5 July), to consider what the impact of the vote to leave the EU will be on local services and communities.
Council leaders will also discuss efforts to heal the divided country, especially in the areas where the vote was close.
EU laws impact on many of the council services that affect people’s day-to-day lives. These range from deciding how rubbish is recycled to improving air quality and protecting people from being served unsafe food when they eat out.
The LGA said councils must play a central role in deciding how to replace these EU laws.
Power over the services which councils deliver cannot simply be transferred from Brussels to Westminster. Instead, taking decisions over how to run these local services closer to where people live is key to improving them and saving money, the LGA said.
Council leaders want a seat around the table to ensure the government’s EU exit negotiations are guided by this principle and to build on the progress of devolution across the country. Deals are now in place in nearly a dozen areas in England, covering a population of around 25 million people, with more in the pipeline.
The LGA will use its annual conference to launch its ‘What next for devolution’ consultation to spark a national debate about how we ensure the right powers are devolved to local government and communities.
This is crucial to ensure they can be the bedrock and the foundation that keeps the country together during the uncertainty and political fall-out from the EU vote and drive economic prosperity, improve health and wellbeing and create safer and stronger communities.
Lord Porter, LGA chairman, said: “Now that the British people have voted to part company with the EU, it is vital that we avoid powers or funding which affect local government getting swallowed up in Whitehall. Over the last year, more powers and funding have been given to local areas. The referendum result and the political uncertainty that has followed must not see that process stall or go backwards.
“Councils need to be involved from the outset in deciding how EU laws affecting local services are replaced and given the power to run them the way we think is best for our communities. Local government must have a seat at the negotiating table.
“Communities also need assurances from the government that they will still receive billions of pounds worth of EU funding to create jobs, build infrastructure projects and boost growth. As part of the immediate task to stabilise the national economy, this is essential to avoid the strength of local economies being put at risk.
“The rise in reported hate crimes in a few areas since the referendum is a concern for us all. Hate, xenophobia and racism have no place in our communities.
“Councils have an important role to play in healing any rifts and division following the vote. It is what we do best and we will be working hard to bring our communities back together.”