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Betts asks Javid to ‘formalise’ local government engagement on Brexit

The Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee has called for more details on funding and addressing the skills gap brought about by Brexit.

In a letter to housing, communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid, the chair of the committee, Clive Betts, demanded more government engagement with local government on the Brexit process and negotiations.

Following a meeting with city leaders, metro mayors and the chair of the London Assembly’s EU Brexit Working Group in Manchester on 19 March, the committee chair wrote to Javid to raise several concerns.

Betts wrote that some of the meeting’s witnesses felt that their voices had not been heard at all by the Department for Exiting the EU and government officials.

“It seems clear to us that the most effective way of avoiding the infrequent and uneven dialogue that we heard had taken place so far would be to formalise the structure by which government engages with local government on Brexit, mirroring that of the devolved administrations,” he said.

The city leaders shared concerns over the future of funding currently coming from the EU, with a lack of clarity on the progress of providing details on how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, replacing the EU structural funds, will be administered and operated.

“We share our witnesses’ desire to learn more about how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be distributed and when local authorities will learn how much funding they will receive,” Betts added. “I note that the government has committed to consulting on the detailed design of the fund this year, however it remains unclear when this consultation will occur.

“Given we are now one year away from the UK leaving the EU, and to ensure the vital certainty that local government needs, I would urge you to ensure that this consultation is conducted as soon as possible.”

Betts pressed Javid for clarification on government plans to assist local government in putting in place long-term skills strategies as it attempts to address the changes brought about by Brexit, with the London Assembly’s Len Duvall having expressed concerns that the committee’s terms of reference focus “too heavily on short-term issues leading to a skills shortage.”

He also called for an update on the progress of conversations with the four local government associations on how the consultative role of the Committee of the Regions may be replicated domestically, which Javid had previously pledged to conduct.

The committee’s letter to government follows a meeting between the leaders of Core Cities UK and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in February, where both parties discussed the need for a domestic post-Brexit agenda so that English cities could thrive.

It also comes after Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham argued that central government should devolve more powers to English regions.

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