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31.03.17

LGA: Councils must be central to legislative decisions during Brexit

Local authorities should be kept at the frontline of decision-making when it comes to changing EU legislation after Brexit, council leaders have today told the government.

Responding to the White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill that the government released yesterday, the LGA has called on the government to not allow Brexit to cause a centralisation of powers back to Whitehall, but rather that local councils should be given greater legislative freedoms as Britain leaves the EU.

The White Paper set out central government’s proposals for establishing a functioning statute book once the UK has left the EU, providing details about the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 as well as how European law would be converted to UK law.

In his foreword to the paper, Brexit secretary David Davis said: “The Great Repeal Bill will convert EU law as it applies in the UK into domestic law on the day we leave – so that wherever practical and sensible, the same laws and rules will apply immediately before and immediately after our departure.

“It is not a vehicle for policy changes – but it will give the government the necessary power to correct or remove the laws that would otherwise not function properly once we have left the EU.”

The paper comes just a day after two public sector unions warned that the Civil Service was “woefully underprepared” for Brexit and of the challenges that would come about after the triggering of Article 50.

Now, councils have urged the government to make local authorities a key part of this legislative process to ensure they are involved in the conversation over what EU laws are adopted, adapted or abandoned entirely.

Lord Porter, chair of the LGA, said: “The UK's exit from the EU will have a significant impact on local government, creating challenges that need to be addressed but also opportunities to do things differently.

“EU laws impact on many of the council services that affect people's day-to-day lives. 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 added that Brexit should not mean a transfer of powers from Brussels to Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay.

Instead, 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”.

Lord Porter also stated that work was needed to prepare a plan for how to allocate the £5.3bn that local areas in England will receive from the EU by 2020 for regeneration to create jobs, support SMEs, deliver skills and boost local growth across the country

“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 concluded.

“It will also be important to secure continuing access to loans from the European Investment Bank."

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