A SENIOR councillor is set to play an influential role in Brexit negotiations.

Essex County Council's deputy leader Kevin Bentley has been chosen to chair a group championing the interests of UK local government.

As part of his new role Mr Bentley (Con) will lead the Local Government Association's Brexit Task and Finish group.

He said: "I’m honoured to have been appointed Chairman of the LGA group, where I can fly the flag for Essex and local government nationwide to ensure central Government delivers the best possible Brexit deal.

“While it’s clear the Government wants to ensure Britain can continue to thrive in the post-Brexit world, much of that devolved power and funding could be handed to the people on the ground who can make a real difference.

“Local councils, including Essex, understand their economies and communities better than anyone at a national level, so we must make sure we are heard in Westminster to negotiate a deal that is driven by local priorities.”

Bosses at County Hall have been monitoring the risk and opportunities which Essex could face as a result of Brexit since the shock result to leave the European Union last June.

Mr Bentley, who also holds the role as cabinet member for economic growth, skills, infrastructure and digital economy, said his appointment was fantastic chance to influence negotiations and get a good deal for Essex.

He said: “The Essex economy has the entrepreneurial spirit and potential to drive growth post-Brexit, therefore we must create the right conditions for businesses to thrive,” added Cllr Bentley.

“A UK growth programme would support local business growth and invest in local employment and skills provision to develop and retain the right workforce for the jobs on offer, particularly into sectors which rely on EU nationals and which support the UK’s forthcoming industrial strategy. “Essex is open for business and now we have a fantastic opportunity to influence Brexit to ensure local firms are able to secure new export markets both within and beyond the EU.”

Mr Bentley replaces David Simmonds as chairman, after he was appointed leader of the Conservatives on the LGA.