William Eichler 04 July 2019

Council chiefs call for devolution to rural communities after Brexit

Local authority leaders have called on the Government to devolve more powers to rural areas in the event that Britain leaves the European Union.

The final report from the Local Government Association’s Post-Brexit England Commission argues that many of the challenges facing non-metropolitan communities can only be met by passing down greater powers to local areas.

The LGA’s report, published today at their annual conference in Bournemouth, found that the majority of rural areas will reach a ‘tipping point’ of over 50 retired residents per 100 of working age residents by 2030. This trend is caused, it argues, by an ageing population and the fact that young people are struggling to find homes and jobs locally and so are forced to move away.

The report also shows that businesses are on average 30% less productive per job than urban areas with a major town centre. According to the report, this is the result of national Government boosting economic growth through devolution deals and local industrial strategies.

Rural communities also have poor mobile and broadband connectivity with only 42% of rural residents receiving a 4G signal from every major mobile network operator in their homes.

Local government leaders argue that in order to overcome these challenges, Whitehall must devolve more power to councils in the wake of Brexit.

The LGA’s report outlines a number of measures the Government could implement including allowing councils to keep 100% of their Right to Buy receipts and giving them the power to set discounts locally.

It also calls for the scrapping of permitted development rules and for the full devolution of replacement EU structural funding to non-metropolitan areas.

‘Rural residents and businesses deserve an equal stake in the nation’s future success,’ said Cllr Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board.

‘They want the same level of digital connectivity as their urban counterparts, jobs that reward their hard work, their fair share of public investment and are keen to take advantage of new opportunities for international trade.

‘As Whitehall and Westminster have become increasingly pre-occupied with delivering Brexit, local councils have got on and delivered crucial services and investment for their residents.

‘Our hard work and commitment is reflected by the enormous trust placed in councils by residents.

‘Our message to Government is simple, give councils the powers they need to help people get on with their lives and address a deepening divide between rural and urban areas of England.’

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