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UK councils: Post-Brexit must emphasise local powers, not national identity

Devolving more power to local authorities will help empower people following Brexit, the four major UK local government organisations have said.

Local government leaders from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland signed a joint statement saying that constitutional decisions once the country leaves the EU should not be made solely by the government in Westminster and devolved administrations.

Instead, they said decisions should be based on three principles: subsidiarity, meaning that power is transferred to the level of government closest to the people; defining powers and responsibilities for local government; and giving councils greater responsibility for funding, with less legislative constraints.

The statement added: “The EU Referendum gave a clear signal that views on politics, growth and prospects differ widely across the UK. Recasting the position of local government and broadening the scope of decision-making across the UK is the only way to meet the different needs of our different communities.

“Councils have a deep understanding of the frustrations, aspirations and possibilities within our communities. With our country increasingly defined in ‘local' rather than ‘national' terms, a new settlement which ignores the re-awaking of local identity in the UK in favour of a post-Brexit national identity will be unsustainable.”

The statement was signed by Lord Porter, chair of the LGA; Cllr Phil Bale, spokesperson for European affairs for the Welsh LGA; Cllr David O'Neill, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities; and Alderman Arnold Hatch, vice president of the Northern Ireland LGA.

They also argued that the referendum had “exposed a sense, amongst some, of feeling distanced from decision-making”, and that more local decision making would “empower communities”.

The four organisations called for a full guarantee in the forthcoming Autumn Statement that they will receive their full share of EU funding by 2020.

They also said they wanted to meet with central government to discuss designing a successor scheme to EU-funded projects, in partnership with local government, the higher education sector and businesses.

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