“Plymouth City Council has claimed to be the first to use the Sustainable Communities Act to try to force the government to reveal the impact of Brexit.
It will also encourage other local authorities to take similar steps. Leader Tudor Evans has used the act to ask the government share with the council what it knows about Brexit’s affect on the city, even if the information concerned is considered confidential.
In a letter to communities secretary James Brokenshire, Cllr Evans demanded: “Immediate receipt by Plymouth City Council of all government departmental information and analysis pertaining to the impacts upon Plymouth’s communities and businesses of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, including any information deemed by the government to be confidential.”
The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 allows local authorities to ask central government to remove legislative or other barriers to the improvement of the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area.
Plymouth’s use of it is based on the council’s fears about the impact of Brexit on the city’s economy.
Cllr Evans said: “Brexit is going to have an impact on Plymouth, that is for sure. But for this council to do the job of protecting businesses and residents, we have to know exactly what the government has planned for us because at the moment, we don’t know.
“We’ve seen various dossiers released in the last few weeks. They have been at best woolly and do not address what Brexit means for individual communities.”
He said Plymouth relied on imports and exports, and half of its 20 largest companies were foreign owned and had invested there because of the direct access to the EU market.
“Although we are the first council to use the [sustainable communities] act in this way, I don’t expect us to be the last,” Cllr Evans said. “I will be speaking to colleagues all around the country in the next few days to help put pressure on the government for answers.”