Following this week’s flurry of Brexit-related news which has focussed on weighty topics such as the national economy and international diplomacy, the role of local government in people’s lives has been somewhat forgotten.
However, as the Chairman of the Local Government Association Lord Porter of Spalding warned, Brexit will have a significant impact on local government. In Lord Porter’s view, Brexit will create ‘challenges that need to be addressed but also opportunities to do things differently.’
Lord Porter’s comments focussed on the Great Repeal Bill, which will transpose EU law in UK law. He said that “EU laws impact on many of the council services that affect people’s day-to-day lives,” and because of this insisted that “local government must play a central role in deciding whether to keep, amend or scrap EU laws once they are converted into domestic law.”
The Great Repeal Bill will also offer a chance for repatriated powers to be devolved down to the local government level. The Prime Minister hinted in her Article 50 triggering letter that such powers could be devolved to regional governments (with one eye on Scotland), but there was no mention of whether new powers would be granted to local authorities.
This approach was not welcomed by the LGA, with Lord Porter stating the Bill “must lead to new legislative freedoms and flexibilities for councils so that residents and businesses benefit. Taking decisions over how to run local services closer to where people live is key to improving them and saving money.”
EU funding will be another key area of concern for local authorities over coming years. Councils currently benefit from significant levels of EU regeneration funding, and it seems that the LGA will be fighting for a ‘fully-funded and locally-driven successor scheme’ to be put in place.