Clark committed to devolution with ‘much bigger role for local’ post-Brexit

The role of local government and devolution deals is more important than ever following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, communities and local government secretary Greg Clark told the LGA conference today.

In his speech, Clark praised local government’s ability to solve problems and deal with the unexpected in the political chaos following the referendum result.

“While some Westminster politicians can give a good impression of losing their heads and blaming it on everyone else, that doesn’t wash in local government,” he said. “Among the challenges the referendum poses has to be, it seems to me, a much bigger role for the local in our national life.”

He committed to continuing the government’s programme of devolution, saying that the question was no longer whether devolution occurred, but how far powers were devolved.

“When we’re transferring powers from the EU, I think it’s essential that Whitehall is not the principal recipient,” he added.

Clark said that he is assembling a team of local government leaders to represent the needs of local government in the referendum negotiations.

When asked by a representative of the newly proposed West of England devolved body, joining up Bath, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils, if the devolution deals would mean forcible restructuring of local government, he said: “I have no intention whatever of obliging the reorganisation of local government.”

However, he indicated that there was a lack of support for devolution in wider government, saying: “Does everyone in government and Whitehall share my enthusiasm to devolve? To be candid, no.”

He urged councils to make the case for devolution to national government by being “ever more clear on what you can offer and what you can propose.”

Clark also announced that he is opening a “deliberately broad and open” consultation into proposals to devolve full control of business rates to councils.

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