Brexit "catastrophic" for local services, council chiefs warn

A British exit from the European Union would create a further funding black hole that could prove "catastrophic" for local government's ability to deliver local services, a group of council leaders have argued.

In a letter to the Times, 64 town hall chiefs said that almost every area of council work would be negatively affected - and communities hardest hit - if the country votes to leave on 23 June.

It notes that the EU is by far the UK's largest trading partner, with exports worth £227bn in 2014. A vote to leave would "wreak havoc" on businesses, making it harder for councils to deliver the services people rely on.

Britain's towns and cities also benefit from EU funding through the European Regional Development Fund to support innovation, business growth, low carbon projects and job creation, while local police forces can better serve communities thanks to cross-border intelligence sharing, the letter argues.

"From supporting local businesses and jobs, to protecting working people and supporting our health and environment, Britain's EU membership is vital," the leaders state.

The letter is part of the Labour In for Britain campaign.

In January, Havering Council in London because the first local authority to pass a motion in favour of Britain leaving the EU.

Portsmouth City Council and the London Borough of Bromley have also passed similar motions.

Last month, Cosla, the body representing 28 of Scotland's 32 local authorities formally backed staying in the EU.