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Government must ‘urgently’ bring forward Brexit funding plans for local government and stop leaving councils ‘in the dark’, say MPs

MPs have urged the government to “urgently advance” its plans to replace EU funding for local government and stop leaving councils “in the dark” over Brexit.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has recommended that ministers should prioritise ensuring EU funding will be fully replaced after the UK leaves the EU, which is currently due to happen on 12 April.

The new report said plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – which will replace EU Structural Funds –need to move forward “urgently” and states that the government must publish its promised consultation on the new policy and its implementation within two weeks of 12 April.

The committee said that the funding levels, which are due to be announced in the Autumn 2019 Spending Review, “must match or exceed” the current EU funding given to local government.

The report also calls on the government to ensure a range of planning and support is put in place for local authorities in case of a no-deal Brexit and to take steps to address potential workforce shortages in the short term.

The government has said it will replace EU funds for the poorer parts of the UK with the Shared Prosperity Fund, and James Brokenshire announced in January that local authorities would receive a total of £56.5m in order to help them prepare for Brexit.

The chair of the committee, Clive Betts, said: “Whatever form of Brexit is finally decided upon, local authorities will play a key role in ensuring as little disruption as possible to people’s day-to-day lives.

“They have the local knowledge and experience to identify likely problems and create workable solutions, yet the government is not giving them sufficient support to do this, nor is it adequately seeking their input to identify problems and inform their planning.”

Betts said over the course of an inquiry, the committee has heard of numerous different challenges faced by councils such as “critical pressures in filling vacant posts” left by EU workers, fears of gridlocked roads and ports, and more.

He added: “The government must provide adequate financial support and technical guidance to respond to emerging challenges.

“It is also absolutely imperative that the government now brings forward its plans for replacing the EU funding that some of the poorest communities across the country currently rely on.

“If they want to ensure that local authorities face the challenges and seize the opportunities of Brexit they cannot keep leaving them in the dark.”

The vice-chairman of County Council Networks, Philip Atkins, said it supported the recommendations, and said it was “imperative” that these funds are adequately replaced and that this is channelled through local and accountable politicians.

The LGA’s Kevin Bentley also called for devolved powers to local communities, and said: “Brexit cannot result in swapping Brussels for Whitehall.”


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