Brexit Should Bring Devolution Of More Powers

16 November 2016, 05:32

Council leaders from across the UK have united to call for the devolution of more powers to local government when Britain leaves the European Union (EU).

Local government associations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said a post-Brexit constitutional settlement that excluded local authorities would be "unsustainable''.

They want any additional powers transferred from Brussels to move beyond Westminster, Cardiff Bay, Holyrood and Stormont, and down to local communities.

In a joint statement, the associations called for constitutional talks with government on the principles underpinning any new settlement.

"The EU referendum gave a clear signal that views on politics, growth and prospects differ widely across the UK,'' they said.

"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-awakening 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.

"This will strengthen local democracy, empower communities and be a force for good.''

The statement was backed by Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association; Councillor Phil Bale, European affairs spokesman for the Welsh Local Government Association; Councillor David O'Neill, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities; and Alderman Arnold Hatch, vice president of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association.

They said that any new settlement should ensure that power is transferred to the level of government closest to the people, provide greater fiscal autonomy for councils and secure and enhance the legal position of local government.

Councils also want a guarantee in the Chancellor's forthcoming Autumn Statement that they will receive their full share of EU funding by 2020 ``to prevent flagship infrastructure projects from stalling'' and discussions over a successor scheme involving local government, the higher education sector and business.