Local Government and Brexit

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
21 February 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that when the UK leaves the European Union (EU), a large amount of EU regional aid will be lost. The Local Government Association’s report ‘Beyond Brexit’, published in July 2017, calculated that the funding gap would be £8.4bn. This funding has been used by local areas to create jobs, deliver skills training, and invest in transport and digital infrastructure. Without this funding, local government jobs will be at risk. Conference believes that prior to Brexit taking place, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund promised by the Government must replace in full the money local areas currently receive from the EU.

Brexit could also result in the loss of a large number of regulations relating to local government services and local government workers, such as food safety, equalities, environmental and workplace regulations. EU regulations have provided many benefits to local government workers, including helping part-time workers achieve fairer pension rights, ensuring workers are entitled to breaks, and improving health and safety.

Potential future trade deals could also make it even easier for local authorities to privatise local government services to multi-national companies.

Many local government services across the UK rely on migrant workers, from both the EU and beyond the EU. For example in 2016 Skills for Care reported that 80,000 of the 1.3 million workers in the adult social care sector were from non-UK EU countries. Brexit will mean enormous uncertainty to migrant workers in local government, including many UNISON members whose jobs and livelihoods will be at risk. If freedom of movement is restricted, local government services will be at risk of losing employees and struggling to replace them. Vacancy and turnover rates in social care are already high – in 2017 the vacancy rate for social workers in local authorities was 11% and the turnover rate was 16%.

Conferences calls on the service group executive to:

1)Press the UK government to replace in full the money local areas currently receive through EU regional aid, making this an integral part of our Save Our Local Services (SOS) campaign against cuts and for fair funding for local government in the future. This work should include a plan to lobby politicians across the four nations, and to include UNISON members in actions aimed at raising awareness and putting the maximum pressure on government;

2) Explore working with sympathetic organisations in the local government sector, like the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), and APSE to push for fair funding for local government following Brexit;

3) Work with the Labour Party and other political parties as appropriate on this campaign;

4) Campaign for proper funding for social care, which takes account of the likely future need for a major increase in the workforce, if EU migrant workers have fewer rights to work in the UK;

5) Work with the NEC and other service groups to defend the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit;

6) Work with the NEC and other service groups to campaign to safeguard and improve equality and employment rights and for local government workers after Brexit.