Following the vote to leave the EU it is now more important than ever that councils have a seat at the decision-making table.
At the time of writing this comment, the EU Referendum is only a few days old and the reality is still sinking in, with emotions running high across the UK. It is not my intention here to express a bias one way or another over the outcome, but of the many statements I’ve read, sent in from various companies and industry organisations involved in the public and construction sectors, the Local Government Association’s resonates most.
As you can imagine, with the diversity of views amongst local government, the LGA has sensibly
remained neutral throughout the Referendum debate. While we await feedback from government as to how we move forward, one thing is abundantly clear, we need to bring communities together and local government will be central to this.
Successive governments have been criticised over the years for adopting an approach to decision-making that is far too centralised, which does not reflect the diverse needs of the regions. Many people feel those making the decisions do not fully understand the communities that will be affected and that local authorities should have a much greater influence in the decision-making process.
Councils have a unique insight into what goes on in their communities and the key issues facing the people, local businesses etc in their areas and can feed this vital information back to government to help shape future policy. We are already seeing devolution helping to readdress the imbalance in decision-making, taking it towards a more local level.
Now that the UK has voted out of the EU, it is more important than ever that local authorities are given the opportunity to contribute to the policy debate, particularly during the interim period, as the LGA says: “Councils in England need a seat around the table when decisions are taken over how to replace EU laws as part of the UK’s exit negotiations. It is vital that local government is part of the team.”
This is essential when you consider how EU laws and regulations ‘impact on many council services, such as waste, employment, health and safety, consumer protection and trading and environmental standards.’
As the LGA points out: “There cannot be an assumption that power over these services is simply transferred from Brussels to Westminster.”
Should the power of how to run the services that are delivered locally not be transferred to a local level? The LGA certainly thinks so: “Decades of centralised control over funding and services has distanced our residents from the decisions that affect their everyday lives. With greater control in our areas we can improve services and save money.”
Another vital consideration that needs addressing as we transition away from the EU is the funding that comes into the UK and into our communities from the EU to boost, for example, regeneration. “Communities in England (for example) have been allocated £5.3bn of EU regeneration funding up to 2020,” assert the LGA and “it is important for the Government to guarantee it will protect this vital funding to avoid essential growth-boosting projects stalling and local economies across England being stifled.”