William Eichler 30 March 2017

Whitehall must not use Brexit as an excuse to centralise power, councils warn

Whitehall must not use Brexit as an excuse to centralise power, councils warn

Brexit must lead to ‘new legislative freedoms and flexibilities’ for councils, local government leaders insist.

Responding to the unveiling of the white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, the chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) Lord Porter warned Brexit will have a ‘significant’ impact on local government.

He said it would create ‘challenges that need to be addressed but also opportunities to do things differently.’

The Great Repeal Bill will convert EU law as it applies in the UK into domestic law, so that ‘wherever practical and sensible,’ Brexit secretary David Davis said in his foreword to the white paper, ‘the same laws and rules will apply immediately before and immediately after our departure.’

Lord Ported insisted the local government sector have a say in which laws are adopted or abandoned as the UK pulls out of the EU.

‘EU laws impact on many of the council services that affect people's day-to-day lives,’ he said.

‘These range from deciding how to protect people from being served unsafe food when they eat out to regulating how councils buy goods and services.

‘Local government must play a central role in deciding whether to keep, amend or scrap EU laws once they are converted into domestic law.’

The LGA chairman also warned Brexit must not be an excuse for the centralisation of powers within the UK.

‘Brexit should not simply mean a transfer of powers from Brussels to Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay,’ he said.

‘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.’

On the question of money, Lord Porter reminded Whitehall that local authority areas benefit from EU funds and that a ‘fully-funded and locally-driven successor scheme’ should be put in place.

‘Local areas in England have been allocated £5.3bn in EU regeneration funding by 2020 to create jobs, support small and medium-sized enterprises, deliver skills, and boost local growth across the country,’ he said.

‘The Government also needs to begin work with local government to develop a fully-funded and locally-driven successor scheme which gives local areas full control over spending.’

He also added it would be important to secure continuing access to loans from the European Investment Bank.

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