The Liberal Democrats have pressed Essex County Council to ensure that the Council and residents are ready to deal with the impact on Essex of leaving the EU. The council has been slow to act.
Cllr John Baker (Lib Dem Councillor in eastern Colchester) asked at full council in July 2017 that main committees should have an item on their Agenda. This was agreed by the Conservative spokesperson. However, this did not happen, so Cllr Baker he chased it again.
At full council in December 2017 Cllr Baker received another dismissive reply from the Leader of the Council, saying that if there was something to report they would.
At full council in February 2018 Cllr Baker asked for a cross-party working group to be set up but this was rejected by the ruling Conservatives, but at last something of a reply (see below).
At full council in July 2018 Cllr Baker asked for an update on how the Government's White Paper would affect Essex and again requested a cross-party working group to be set up but this was rejected again. Short reply below.
Reply from Leader of the Council February 2018
Since Full Council in December there has been progress in the negotiations between the UK government and the European Union allowing discussion to take place on a transition deal. However, there still remains much uncertainty about the type of Brexit that will be delivered and the associated impacts and we will continue to monitor progress as the negotiations continue.
ECC is closely engaged with cross-party working through the LGA and as you are aware Cllr Bentley is the LGA's national Brexit lead, chairing the Brexit Task and Finish group focussing on the priority areas for Local Government in leaving the European Union, these include:
1. Securing funding and investment currently sourced from the EU
2. The future autonomy of local government and reaching a new constitutional settlement post-Brexit.
3. The return of EU powers: developing a new legal base for local government
4. Community cohesion and workforce
5. Recognising the differential place-based impacts
Recent work has included:
Giving evidence at the CLG Select Committee inquiry into Brexit and local government.
Attending a special DIT roundtable on the UK's international trade policy post-exit
Attending the annual meetings of the EU Committee of the Regions and Congress
Meeting with DExEU Ministers to highlight local government issues ahead of the second round discussions on transition and future trade framework.
Releasing a second call for information on the place-based impacts of Brexit
Further updates on the LGA's Brexit work can be found on their website I believe ECC's engagement with Brexit through the cross party work of the LGA is the right approach at this time. We will continue to update Council in the coming months and I have asked Cllr Bentley to arrange a Member Development Session for all ECC Members on this topic. When there is greater clarity from the negotiations at a national level we will of course consider new approaches to engaging with this hugely important issue for Essex.'
Reply from Leader of the Council July 2018
'Once the White Paper is published I will ask officers to prepare a summary of the key features for circulation to all Members. If it is possible to do so this will include implications for local authorities. I believe ECC's engagement with Brexit through the cross-party work of the LGA continues to be the right approach at this time. When there is greater clarity from the negotiations at a national level we will of course consider new approaches to engaging with this hugely important issue for Essex.'
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