Laura Sharman 10 August 2016

Exclusive: Brexit should mean review of four-year funding settlement for councils

More than three-quarters of council staff believe the Government should re-think its four-year funding settlement to local government following the EU referendum.

In our survey of council workers, 77% said the financial settlement – announced before the UK voted to leave the EU – should be reviewed due to the expected impact on GDP.

Nearly two-thirds of those responding (65%) also warned that local government finances would get worse following Brexit, with the majority (92%) calling on the Government to compensate councils for the loss of EU funding with the money it saves from exiting the EU.

More than half (55%) of those surveyed said they were also concerned that the Government would lose its enthusiasm for devolution while it focused on negotiating new trade agreements, with only 22% expecting the devolution agenda to carry on as planned.

The majority of council staff (78%) believe that more powers should be devolved to local authorities rather than transferred to Whitehall in the wake of Brexit. More control over housing was the most type of power wanted by respondents, followed by more power over business rates and property and land.

Lord Gary Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, agreed that councils should be given more power over local services. He said: ‘EU laws impact on many of the council services that affect people’s day-to-day lives. These range from deciding how rubbish is recycled to improving air quality and protecting people from being served unsafe food when they eat out. Councils must play a central role in deciding how to replace these EU laws.

‘There cannot be an assumption that power over these services is simply transferred from Brussels to Westminster. If services are delivered locally, then the power over how to run them should rest locally too. Decades of centralised control over funding and services has distanced our residents from the decisions that affect their everyday lives.

‘With greater control in our areas we can improve services and save money.’

A spokesman for the County Councils Network added: ‘With county areas due to receive billions up to 2020, CCN will be seeking clarity on EU structural funds, and will be making sure that counties have a strong involvement around the negotiation table for local government over the coming months.

‘Powers that reside in Brussels should not be transferred to Westminster; instead they should flow to local communities across the country. CCN will be making the case for devolution which empowers county authorities to drive local growth and lead on public service transformation.’

Our survey also showed that despite a rise in the number of reported hate crimes in the wake of the EU referendum, only a small number of council staff (5%) have been subject to abuse or violence since 23rd June. However, out of those staff, 90% blamed the referendum vote for the incident.

Verbal abuse was the most common type of incident reported in our survey – experienced by 71% of those affected – with 61% also being victim of a racist or xenophobic attack.

Read a selection of our readers comments about the impact of Brexit here.

Dr Jonathan Carr-West argues the survey is a timely call for the Government to listen to the views of local councils during Brexit negotiations.

Barry Hopley explains why our Brexit survey highlights the need to balance online detachment with human interaction.

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