The White Paper Legislating for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU states that leaving the EU is an opportunity to ensure returning “power sits closer to the people of the UK than ever before”. It includes a commitment to continue to champion devolution to local government.
- EU laws impact many of the council services that affect people's day-to-day lives, from protecting people from unsafe food when they eat out to regulating how councils buy goods and services.
- Devolution: There will be a review of those EU laws that affect local government once the EU Withdrawal Bill is passed by Parliament. Brexit should not simply mean a transfer of powers from Brussels to Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay. It must lead to new legislative freedoms and flexibilities for councils so that residents and businesses benefit. Taking decisions over how to run local services closer to where people live is key to improving them and saving money.
- Local government consultation: Local government has a formal advisory role in the EU law and policy-making process through its membership of the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR). Formally involving local government in law-making has ensured that EU laws are improved by the experience of those at the frontline of delivery. The LGA, together with the local government associations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, have been in discussion with the UK Government, who have committed to setting out in a ministerial written statement how this advisory role might be replicated in UK law.
- EU funding: Continued participation in the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-20 is welcome as a short-term solution, but it is now essential that this funding to local areas is fully replaced from 2021. A locally-led successor to EU regional aid is needed to stop an £8.4 billion UK-wide funding gap for local communities opening up at this point.
- Workforce: Councils play the leading role in bringing communities together and will be important in tackling workforce challenges. 7 per cent of existing adult social care staff come from the continuing EU and 13 per cent of the construction workforce were born outside the UK. Securing a sustainable adult social care workforce and excellent care skills must be a priority for the Government during negotiations and in drafting an Immigration Bill.
- Customs: Councils want to continue to play their part in protecting public health through the fulfilment of their port health responsibilities. It is essential that councils are adequately resourced to carry out checks, particularly if there is a significant increase in demand for these following the UK’s withdrawal from the Customs Union (or equivalent).
- Procurement: Councils currently have to follow EU-wide advertising and award procedures when they buy goods and services. A lighter-touch system which simplifies this processes, and provides more flexibilities to promote local growth, is vital so that councils can procure to shorter timescales and lower high administration costs for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
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Opposition Day Debate on Brexit, House of Commons - 16 May 2018