The LGA is working hard to support councils through the end of the transition period following the UK’s departure from the EU.
The LGA’s EU Exit Taskforce is stepping up preparations for the end of the EU transition period on 31 December 2020.
As trade negotiations with the EU continue, we meet ministers regularly to ensure councils’ key priorities are being directly addressed.
For example, on local economies, councils will need the local levers and powers to deal with any local economic changes that may occur, regardless of how the negotiations turn out.
The negotiations may define future rules regarding state aid, procurement, environmental services, environmental health, trading standards and social protection. Councils need long-term certainty about the regulation of public services, and to know how the regulatory regime will operate as it affects vital aspects of local public service delivery.
Elsewhere, ports are at the forefront of many councils’ work to prepare for the end of transition. As port health authorities, some councils are legally responsible for undertaking checks of certain imports as they enter the country, including products of animal origin and high-risk food products.
Should there not be a trade deal, full checks of goods are planned to start in July 2021. This increases the demand for councils’ services in these areas, on top of the COVID-19 testing and tracing work that councils’ regulatory services have taken on. We will continue to raise the resourcing of regulatory services with government.
We are also raising issues with the Department for Transport about the capacity on local roads linked to congestion at ports.
Meanwhile, if a zero-tariff deal is not secured, councils will need to know any change in costs (both reduced and increased) that will be introduced as a result of the UK’s new tariff regime. This is in relation to both councils’ own procurement activities and the impacts on small and medium-sized businesses, which may need support to adapt.
We are also raising issues of policy formation beyond the end of the EU transition period, including funding for regeneration and economic growth, employment and immigration, and devolution.
Regarding the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) – the replacement for EU regeneration funding – the Government has confirmed that there will be cross-departmental discussions after the Comprehensive Spending Review this autumn.
The LGA has long argued that the UKSPF should be locally driven, democratically accountable and allocated based on locally determined outcomes. It should also be aligned to wider growth funding. We continue to highlight the impact of any gap between EU funding ending and the start of UKSPF.
Councils are playing a role in identifying hard-to-reach individuals as we approach the June 2021 deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme. As the Government develops its immigration policy, it needs to ensure care workers are included in the new health and care visa to help fill staff shortages in the adult social care sector.
Last, but not least, the UK’s exit from the EU must not result in a centralisation of powers in Whitehall. This is a unique opportunity to empower local communities. We need new devolution settlements in England and across the UK to bring new powers to communities through local democracy.
The end of the EU transition period will be a landmark date. Our task is to help ensure that councils are ready for everything, that the challenges are met head on, and that local areas capitalise on opportunities for change.