UK Local Government Leaders Unite In Brexit Devolution Call

Leaders of local government in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have united around the call for further devolution to local communities across the UK after Brexit. Council leaders across the UK are warning against any new constitutional settlement once we leave the EU being decided only by Westminster and the devolved administrations in Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay.

The local government associations of the four countries of the UK are calling for constitutional talks with government to ensure three key principles underpin any new settlement:

  • Establishing a principle of subsidiarity, which would ensure that power is transferred to the level of government closest to the people;
  • Securing and enhancing the legal position of local government. This would mean a defined set of powers and responsibilities which set out what local government should support at the local level so that public services can be designed around local need;
  • Providing greater fiscal autonomy for local government. The current centralised system of public finance is inefficient and stifles economic growth. Greater responsibility for funding with less legislative constraints at a local level would improve public services and ensure that local residents and business see how their money is used, freeing up local authorities to plan for the future.

Councils also need a full guarantee in the Autumn Statement that they will receive their full share of EU funding by 2020 to prevent flagship infrastructure projects from stalling. The leaders also want to discuss with government the opportunity to design a successor scheme, in partnership with local government, the higher education sector and business.

The four associations said the UK’s departure from the EU has prompted fundamental questions about where additional powers should sit when they are transferred from Brussels. They are clear that any repatriated powers from Brussels must also move beyond Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay and down to local communities via local government.

In a joint statement, Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, Cllr Phil Bale, Leader of European Affairs for the Welsh Local Government Association, Cllr David O’Neill, President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Alderman Arnold Hatch, Vice President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association, said:

“The EU referendum gave a clear signal that views on politics, growth and prospects differ widely across the UK. Recasting the position of local government and broadening the scope of decision making across the UK is the only way to meet the different needs of our different communities.

“It also exposed a sense, amongst some, of feeling distanced from decision making and disconnected from the political process and has sparked a debate about the UK and our constitutional settlement.

“Councils have a deep understanding of the frustrations, aspirations and possibilities within our communities. With our country increasingly defined in ‘local’ rather than ‘national’ terms, a new settlement which ignores the re-awaking of local identity in the UK in favour of a post-Brexit national identity will be unsustainable.

“Local government across the UK wants to ensure any new constitutional settlement is guided by the principle that decisions should be taken at the level closest to the citizen.

“Taking decisions closer to where people live stands to bring significant economic and social benefits and is the most effective way to create jobs, build homes and strengthen communities. This will strengthen local democracy, empower communities and be a force for good.”


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