The leader of Hartlepool Borough Council has given his support to the campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union ahead of June’s referendum.
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher has, along with 63 other council leaders, put his name to a letter urging the country to vote ‘no’ to leaving the EU on June 23.
The letter states: “From supporting local businesses and jobs, to protecting working people and supporting our health and environment, Britain’s EU membership is vital.
“If we leave Europe, it is our communities that will be hardest hit.
“The EU is by far the UK’s largest trading partner and the world’s largest single market; half of our exports go to EU countries, worth £227 billion in 2014 to the UK economy, and over 200,000 British companies export to the EU.”
The statement adds: “The economic damage that leaving the EU would bring would wreak havoc on our local businesses and make it harder than ever for councils to deliver the services people rely on.
“Given the government’s recent decision to devolve business rates, in that context the disastrous economic effects of Brexit could mean catastrophe for our councils’ ability to deliver the services people rely on.
“Local councils have already had to make substantial cuts to their budgets over the last six years and leaving the EU will represent a further funding black hole that would make it harder to build homes and protect our towns against flooding.
“In almost every area of council work, leaving the EU would have a negative impact.”