Large proportions of senior officers fear Brexit will have a “devastating” impact on their communities or are anxious about its impact on the local government workforce, LGC’s latest Confidence Survey has found.
Three months since Britain voted to leave the European Union, there is ongoing uncertainty over what the implications will be for councils and the country as a whole. Details of the government’s spending plans in light of Brexit are not expected to emerge until the autumn statement on 23 November.
But LGC’s survey results suggest there is little optimism about the future, with just 12% of the 206 senior council officers who responded expecting Britain’s departure from the EU to have a positive impact and afford councils greater freedoms and flexibility.
Asked to select one of three statements that best described their feelings over Brexit’s impact on local government, 40% said they expected it to be “devastating for the community my authority serves”.
Nearly half (48%) said they were unsure of the implications, but expected it to create both problems and opportunities.
“The impact on funding for socially deprived areas and regeneration projects will be significant,” said one officer.
Another added: “Impact will be medium to long term and probably it is the economic consequences and subsequent impact on local services that will be the most important.”
The survey also found 59% of senior officers were concerned or very concerned about the impact of Brexit on the future workforce.
This rose to 85% for responses from London boroughs and three-quarters from both counties and unitaries.
Last week, joint research by charity Independent Age and thinktank the International Longevity Centre-UK said adult care services could be put at risk if up to 78,000 European Union citizens employed in the sector lose their right to work in the UK.
The research, based on analysis of Office for National Statistics data, estimated one in nine adult social care workers in London could be at risk of losing their right to work following Brexit.
Responding to findings, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said the loss of any portion of the current workforce in a sector already under pressure from increased demand and staffing challenges would have a “profound effect”.
LGC’s survey aso found concern about loss of EU funds. One in seven senior officers said projects in their areas which were due to be supported by EU funding had already been cancelled, postponed or otherwise altered significantly following the vote to leave the EU.
The government has so far said it would honour EU funding for development projects that are signed off by the autumn statement.
Greater Manchester leaders recently dismissed this deadline as “arbitrary” and estimated 82% of their combined authority’s £322m funding allocation between 2014 and 2020 was at risk.
|Support for greater local flexibility post Brexit|
|Area of law||%|
|Health and safety||28|
However, more than half of senior officers said further devolution to local government could help address some of the issues raised by the Brexit vote.
Asked what areas of law should be amended as a result of Britain’s exit from the EU, there was widespread support for amending procurement rules with 77% of respondents in favour.
The Local Government Association has said powers that are returned to the UK following Brexit should not be held at Westminster but should be considered for devolution to local areas where apporiate.
The survey found widespread support for local control over procurement and state aid (see table).
One respondent commented: “We should consider new powers around recycling, food hygiene and air quality. Health needs to be devolved.
“Structural funds should be guaranteed and a new investment ank created. Capital for local energy efficiency and generation should be made available.”
Brexit raises fears of 'devastating' social impact and loss of staff