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President's Blog: February 2020 - What next for local authorities after Brexit?

5 February 2020

I write this as the UK formally starts our exit from the EU. No matter your view on this moment in history, undoubtedly there will be significant consequences and opportunities for local authorities and our wider sector to grow our places. 

As the new government develops the details of its policy agenda, there are two areas where ADEPT will need to make sure its voice is heard – future funding and devolution.

The replacement for EU funding, the Shared Prosperity Fund, will be important for all of us. How it is managed and how we access it will have different implications for every local authority. From an ADEPT perspective, the challenge is to reduce the number of funding streams we have to bid into and we need to get that message across. Bidding is an expensive and resource-heavy process that often results in us having to combine disparate funding streams on the ground to deliver better outcomes across council areas. We need to have a better balance between competitive bidding and allocations. Too much reliance on bidding means we have had to create a new bureaucracy within local authorities, purely to enable us to write bids, often at short timescales. This really isn’t the best use of our resources. We need longer term funding certainty across the UK, funding that works for place services as well as care. As I will continue to argue, supporting preventative place-based services is key to ensuring thriving, sustainable communities.

With our exit from the EU and a new government in Parliament keen to ‘level up’, how powers and funding are devolved to local areas has re-emerged as a priority. A devolution White Paper is forthcoming. As with the Shared Prosperity Fund, the devil will be in the detail, with different implications for each area. From an ADEPT perspective, it is important that government recognises the differing requirements of our areas. We need to avoid duplicating existing mechanisms and avoid forcing a “one size fits all” model across the whole country. For devolution to work, government must recognise the creativity and innovation happening within local authorities, and how well local leadership works to deliver real change on the ground.