Brexit should usher in new era of devolution, say UK local leaders

16 Nov 16

Local government leaders from across the UK have today united in a call for further devolution across the country following Brexit, including greater fiscal autonomy for councils.

In a joint statement, council chiefs from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland call for three key principles to underpin a new constitutional settlement. These include establishing a principle of subsidiarity, which would ensure that power is transferred to the level of government closest to the people, as well as enhancing the legal position of local government through a defined set of powers and responsibilities.

Local Government Association chair Lord Porter, Welsh Local Government Association European affairs spokesman Phil Bale, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities president David O’Neill and Northern Ireland Local Government Association vice president Arnold Hatch also called for greater fiscal autonomy. This would allow town halls to boost efficiency and promote growth as well as helping local residents and business see how their money is used, they said.

The statement also called on the government to expand the current guarantees on European funding.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has pledged to guarantee European structural and investment funding for projects signed off before next week’s Autumn Statement, but councils said they need EU regeneration funding confirmed in full to 2020. Chiefs also called on ministers to discuss the development of a successor scheme.

“The EU referendum gave a clear signal that views on politics, growth and prospects differ widely across the UK,” the statement said. “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.

“It also exposed a sense, amongst some, of feeling distanced from decision making and disconnected from the political process and has sparked a debate about the UK and our constitutional settlement.

“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.”

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