NLGN Leadership Index

Councils’ leaderships reveal Brexit’s negative impact on community cohesion
29 January, 2019

  • Over half of local authority chiefs believe Brexit is having a negative impact on community cohesion, with many areas witnessing a rise in hate crime and division. Less than 2 per cent feel it is having a positive effect.
  • 73 per cent of Labour councils feel Brexit is having a negative impact, compared to 35 per cent of Conservative local authorities.
  • Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East are the most negative about Brexit’s impact on communities.
  • Council leaderships hold deep concern about the impact of Brexit uncertainty on the business community; confidence in conditions for local businesses falls.

In the wake of yet further uncertainty, the New Local Government Network’s latest Leadership Index has revealed that Brexit is testing communities across the country. More than 50 per cent of local authority chief executives, leaders and council mayors believe Brexit is having a negative impact on community cohesion in their area. Less than 2 per cent feel it is having a positive effect.

NLGN’s research suggests hate crime and division are rising in many areas, with council leadership witnessing the rise of “far right, anti-immigration” views, “anti-Semitic graffiti”, “verbal abuse against non-Britons”, alongside rallies and demonstrations. One council chief said, Brexit is “deeply divisive and its effects on community cohesion run deep and will take a long time to repair”.

The survey exposes party political and regional differences in perceptions of the impact of Brexit: 73 per cent of Labour councils feel Brexit is having a negative effect on community cohesion, compared to 35 per cent of Conservative local authorities. Regional differences are also apparent, with Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East the most negative, and the South East (excluding London) most positive, about Brexit’s impact.

Adam Lent, Director of the New Local Government Network, said:

“Whatever your view of Brexit, it is clear from this research that it is having a worrying impact on community cohesion.

“Apart from the human misery this causes, declining cohesion will make it harder to deliver sustainable public services which rely ever more on collaboration with and between citizens. The Government must urgently consult with councils to work out the best way to address this growing problem and resource an adequate response.”

Council leaderships have expressed deep concern about the impact of Brexit uncertainty on the business community, with confidence that there is optimism in their local business communities has declining by 10 per cent. Many council chiefs have also cited workforce issues in their areas, particularly in the construction sector. To quote council chiefs, “local businesses are finding Europeans going back home already” and there is “lower investment in new technologies and business investment generally”.

The NLGN Leadership Index is a survey of leaders, chief executives and mayors of local authorities across the UK first published in March 2018. It provides a platform for councils to express their level of confidence in delivering key services and the overall experience of their community.

Notes to editors

  1. For further information, please contact Molly Jarritt, External Affairs Officers at NLGN, on 07714 448036 or mjarritt@nlgn.org.uk.
  2. A cohesive community is one where: There is common vision and a sense of belonging for all communities; the diversity of people’s different backgrounds and circumstances are appreciated and positively valued; those from different backgrounds have similar life opportunities; and strong and positive relationships are being developed between people. For more detail, see: https://www.interfaith.org.uk/uploads/guidance_on_community_cohesion.pdf.
  3. The survey was sent to 789 leaders, chief executives and council mayors across the UK. It was open between 3rd December and 17th December 2018. This latest survey had a 20.4 per cent response rate with 160 chief executives and leaders participating. Responses were received from all regions.
  4. NLGN’s Leadership Index is divided into two sections. The first changes with each survey to reflect an area of current interest and relevance, with this survey focusing on the impact of Brexit and prevention. In the second, respondents were asked a series of twelve recurring questions on how confident they are that there are sufficient powers and resources to meet certain key needs in the local area: adult social care, children’s services, environmental services, housing, economic development and health and wellbeing.
  5. Responses to the question, ‘What impact do you feel Brexit is having on community cohesion in your area?’, are as follows:

    Figure 1

    Figure 2

    Figure 3

  6. The graph below illustrates quarterly confidence levels in the business environment and business opportunities (scale 0 – 100):

    Figure 4