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Betts urges Brexit discussions with councils to be formalised

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Ministers should formalise the way they engage with local government on Brexit, according to the Commons housing, communities, and local government committee chair Clive Betts (Lab).

With one year to go before Britain leaves the European Union, Mr Betts has also called for clarity on how the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund will work in practice once it replaces current EU structural funds.

He has also urged the government to use some of the £3bn set aside to prepare for Brexit to help councils prepare as they “do not have the capacity and resources needed in order to implement, enforce and advise on legislative changes” resulting from Britain leaving the EU.

LGC previously reported how the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government has been criticised for failing to bid for additional funding to prepare councils for Brexit.

In his letter to housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid, Mr Betts asked “whether you intend to distribute any of this money to local authorities to assist them in supporting a ‘smooth and orderly exit’.”

While Mr Betts said some leaders had been “happy with the engagement they have had with the Department for Exiting the EU and government officials” so far, he added “others felt their voice had not been heard at all”.

“It seems clear to us that the most effective way of avoiding the infrequent and uneven dialogue that we heard had taken place so far would be to formalise the structure by which government engages with local government on Brexit, mirroring that of the devolved administrations,” said Mr Betts. “With one year to go until the UK leaves the EU this would ensure that local government is a regular participant in the discussion around Brexit as negotiations progress. It is imperative that local authorities at all levels and in all regions of the country are represented in such a body.”

While the government has committed to consult on how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will work, Mr Betts said “it remains unclear when this consultation will occur”.

He added: “Given we are now one year away from the UK leaving the EU, and to ensure the vital certainty that local government needs, I would urge you to ensure that this consultation is conducted as soon as possible. It will clearly be a highly technical and complex task to design and administer such a fund, and adequate time must be given to ensure this is done right.”

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