Council leaders have called on ministers to protect billions of pounds of European regeneration funding in the wake of the vote to leave the EU.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said it will continue to represent the interests of English councils in Brussels as the UK’s exit from the EU is negotiated.
Swansea has benefitted from EU funds
In a statement following the referendum result, the LGA said: ‘Communities in England have been allocated £5.3 billion of EU regeneration funding up to 2020.
‘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.’
As well as regeneration funding, the UK could be due as much as £100m from the EU Solidarity Fund following last winter’s floods.
However, ministers delayed applying to the fund until just before the deadline and recent enquiries by Transport Network suggest that the Government has still not provided the European Commission (EC) with the information needed to assess the application.
Adding to the uncertainty, the Government has also declined to confirm that any EU funds will be passed on to councils.
Prior to the referendum, an EC spokesperson declined to comment on how the application would be handled if the UK voted to leave the EU as it was a ‘hypothetical scenario’.
Following the vote, Transport Network has again invited the EC to comment on this issue.
LGA demands seat at table
The LGA remained neutral during the referendum campaign because of ‘a diversity of views’ among local government about Britain's membership of the EU.
On Friday morning (24 June) the organisation said local government would be ‘central in bringing communities together’.
It said: ‘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.
‘EU laws and regulations impact on many council services, such as waste, employment, health and safety, consumer protection and trading and environmental standards. There cannot be an assumption that power over these services is simply transferred from Brussels to Westminster. If services are delivered locally, then the power over how to run them should rest locally too.
The LGA added: ‘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.’
Devolution 'risk' warning
Away from financial issues, Mark Rogers, chief executive at Birmingham City Council and president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE), warned: 'There is a clear risk that renegotiations with the EU replace the current devolution focus, and an enormous opportunity is missed to place local communities at the centre of decision making.'
However, Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the West Midland Combined Authority, said: 'We are taking stock of the referendum vote but remain confident that our recently launched economic plan will deliver positive results for the region over the next decade and beyond.'