Brexit's effect on rural community
Leaving the European Union has major implications for England's countryside communities, the Rural Services Network has warned.
Safeguarding the future of rural services – and those that provide them – would be essential following the decision to leave the EU, said the network.
Immediate issues included promoting the case for a period of financial stability following the referendum and no further funding reductions, it added.
Network chair Cecilia Motley said: “Local authorities and other service providers have an essential role in supporting local economies.
“It has never been more important to have a strong network of local authorities, private partners and voluntary organisations providing services to rural people, communities and businesses.”
Councillor Motley said the network would continue seeking fairer funding for rural authorities and make the strongest case possible against any proposed funding reductions as a result of Brexit. The network was also seeking urgent clarification over planned reforms relating to business rates retention.
Councillor Motley said: “The Brexit decision creates uncertainty and local services could be seriously damaged if that uncertainty starts to affect business rate yields.”
There was also an urgent need for clarity over EU structural funds, Common Agricultural Policy payments and the policy and regulatory impact of leaving the EU. The network was keen to ensure that local government had a seat at the negotiating table as the UK prepared for Brexit talks with its EU neighbours.
Councillor Motley said: “Rural local authorities meet most of the growth related expenditure and this will remain critical at a time of economic uncertainty.”
As Brexit took place, the network was keen to ensure that any powers and funding returned from Brussels reached England’s shire areas rather than residing in Westminster.
Councillor Motley said: “Power needs to flow from Westminster, with a significant reduction in bureaucracy, giving a real say to local people at the most appropriate level of governance.”
Brexit meant there was also an opportunity to place county, unitary and district authorities at the forefront of the devolution and public service reform debate.
Councillor Motley said: “Changing dynamics in Westminster present an opportunity to put forward alternative models for devolution to rural areas.”
Network members had raised concerns over the one-size-fits all approach to elected mayors, she added.
“There is now a period for the government to reconsider this approach where our members feel this governance model is not appropriate for their areas.”