It is a year on since our last Independent Group Brexit discussion to help shape the negotiations and the repeal Bill has now had its first reading in the House of Commons. Today we got to recap on how our representatives are doing in getting the best for us and discussed how we will make our needs clear, ready for the next steps.
The recent Queens Speech was thin on new legislation and included nothing on Local Government Finance. That leaves us to focus on getting the best from the Brexit arrangements and to seek out what we can do that does not require primary legislation, including pressing forward on fairer funding as much as possible. It seems that a government aiming to stay in power based on ten DUP votes and reducing flexibility of funding as £1bn extra is sent to Northern Ireland, will not be aiming for an ambitious agenda, other than the Brexit already underway.
With the LGA, we will be working on Bills affecting local government and allied to Brexit, including Customs, Trade, Immigration, Courts, Agriculture and Fisheries.
Members are and will be invited to continue submitting their ideas and views through our Independent Group think tank, Boards and LGA Brexit Task Group which catches all the issues, refines them and also reports to the Leadership Board and Executive of the LGA.
So what does Local Government look like, post Brexit? That was the discussion at today’s Information and Development Seminar and something I would welcome your views on.
- Since we are currently £5.8bn short by 2020, any EU funding returned should be devolved, not stop at Westminster, Stormont, Cardiff or Holyrood.
- We need to protect the £8.4 billion from the EU Structural and Investment Fund, currently ear-marked for use in our streets and rural areas.
- Business rate retention was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, but is part of our request. It is linked to the fairer funding formula as the plan is to enhance fairness by application of this additional funding. Many councils are now calling for this with increased determination, seeking to change the way local government funding is shared.
- UK procurement rules must allow more local spend
- Transitional arrangements. Are these desirable or will we not have a choice anyway?
In regards to other areas of the Queens Speech, draft bills on Domestic Violence and Abuse and capping Tenant’s Fees are in progress and being worked on by the LGA’s boards.
Other bills we will want to watch include those on
- Data Protection This follows discussions on the previously nick-named “Snoopers charter”.
- Automated and electric vehicles, paving the way for driverless cars,
- Patient safety introducing another watchdog called the Health Service Safety Investigation Body
- Keeping smaller farmers viable and enhancing the richness of our environment
Thank you to those who attended today, your views have gone straight to officers and Board leads here to shape the LGA’s positioning.
After the summer break, the Independent Group adds nine regional meetings to our programme and supports our members at the three Autumn party conferences. Our next big event – our Group Conference - is in November back at Local Government House in Smith’s Square, Westminster, leaving the Farringdon Road premises free for improvement works. This uses our property to best effect, helping to keep your subs down!
I hope you enjoy an August break and look forward to seeing you soon.
For the current Bills and LGA messages, the Leadership papers provide an up to date summary:
LGA asks, based on your representations, were made in May, making calls on the new government, and remain relevant
You can track progress of the Repeal Bill, officially called European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19