Dan Peters 05 December 2018

Local government finance settlement delayed by Brexit debate

Today's provisional local government finance settlement has been delayed – just weeks after Whitehall agreed to bring it forward and fix a date.

The decision came as MPs clash over Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU withdrawal plan, with the House of Commons agenda dominated by five days of debate on the deal.

Sources suggested the Government wanted to allow MPs to have as much chance as possible to participate in the debate ahead of the crunch Brexit vote on Tuesday before any consideration of local government finance.

Other key issues affecting councils, including the much-anticipated devolution framework, the review of local enterprise partnership boundaries and the consultation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, have also been delayed by Brexit.

It is understood that the protected nature of the Brexit debate meant that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) would have found it difficult to find time tomorrow to issue the provisional settlement as an oral ministerial statement, as happened last year.

Labour’s shadow local government secretary, Andrew Gwynne, said: 'The Tories are so trapped in a crisis of their own making over their botched Brexit negotiations that they are neglecting the needs of the country.

'Having delayed the introduction of several key policies, it’s clear that the prime minister is in office but not in power.

'We need a functioning government that will end Tory austerity and rebuild Britain for the many not the few.'

In a written parliamentary statement, local government secretary James Brokenshire, said this recommendation had been accepted before the scheduling of the meaningful vote on Brexit.

Mr Brokenshire added: ‘I recognise that my parliamentary colleagues will wish to engage thoroughly in these [Brexit] debates and will also wish to consider the proposed local government finance settlement for 2019/20.

‘I have therefore decided to announce the provisional local government finance settlement after this protected period, by way of an oral statement.

‘I can confirm that the usual period for making representations on the provisional local government finance settlement will not be truncated as a result.’

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