Councils demand leading role in Brexit negotiations

Local government must play a leading role in negotiating the UK's exit from the European Union to ensure powers and funding that affect services are not simply "swallowed up" by Whitehall, council chiefs have said.

The Local Government Association is also demanding urgent assurances from ministers that town halls will still receive £5.3bn in EU regeneration funding allocated up to 2020, saying it has already been earmarked for vital infrastructure and projects to boost jobs and growth.  

EU laws affect a range of council services, from how rubbish is recycled to improving air quality and upholding food safety standards. Instead of power over these services simply transferring from Brussels to Westminster, it should be moved closer to local people to build on the progress of devolution deals across the country, the LGA said. Deals are in place in nearly a dozen areas of England, covering around 25m people, with more in the pipeline.  

The organisation made the calls ahead of its annual conference in Bournemouth.

The LGA said the event will allow leaders to examine the impact of the leave vote on local services and communities, while also looking at efforts to heal divisions opened up by the referendum, especially in areas where the result was close.

Lord Porter, chair of the LGA, 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."

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Brexit: Cornwall demands guarantees over EU funding