Communities and local government secretary Greg Clark has promised local authorities a seat at the Brexit negotiating table.
Greg Clark promised local government a seat at the negotiating table – Photo credit: PA
Speaking at the Local Government Association conference, Clark said that he was discussing with Gary Porter, chairman of the LGA, and other ministers to decide who should be involved in the talks.
Indeed, he said that both local government would have a “bigger role” to play because of its “practicality and directness” and powerful local leadership.
“We have to insist on a radically expanded role for local government,” Clark said.
He also said that local government would also have a part to play in bringing together divided communities, an idea that was also picked up by Porter, who said in his introductory remarks.
Porter said that, in light of racist attacks and concerns about communities being torn apart by the vote, local authorities needed to show that they stood for “tolerance, openness and respect”.
Clark also said that it was important for funding from the EU, through structural and regional development funds, was maintained. This sentiment was reiterated in a separate session on the impact of the referendum on local government, with panellists and delegates calling for assurances that less-well-off regions would not lose out.
Other concerns raised at that session, which had as panellists LGA vice-chairs from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and independent groups, included the need for financial stability for local government and uncertainty over political leadership.
Meanwhile, there was much discussion of devolution on the first day of the event, with the launch of the LGA’s paper on devolution. The paper said that local government should use the fact they will be at the heart of government discussions following the EU referendum result to push the devolution agenda.
“As work starts on arrangements for the future, there cannot be an assumption that power over these services will transfer back to Whitehall,” the paper said.
Clark’s speech also emphasised the importance of devolution, however some delegates later voiced concerns about his response to a question in which he said that not all of his colleagues in government shared his enthusiasm for devolution.
As such, he urged everyone in local government should take opportunities to be “ever more assertive on what you can offer”.
He also tried to allay fears that devolution deals for regional groups would not lead to redrawing the boundaries of local government, saying that previous attempts to impose “lines on the map” had left a “stench of failure” in government.