Seventy Labour councillors from south London have signed a letter to the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, urging a shift in the party's Brexit position.

Although the letter does not explicitly call for a second referendum, it says that Labour should "acknowledge that the electorate may wish to change its mind about Britain's relationship with the EU".

The councillors, who have signed the letter in an individual capacity, are from the London boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham.

The letter says:

"In the boroughs we represent, the reality of Brexit is bleak. EU citizens report increased levels of anxiety and depression, brought on by the shameful delay in securing their rights. British residents with families abroad are also facing additional burdens and stresses. Local NHS institutions struggle to fill vacant posts, just as the onset of winter increases demand for their services. Businesses tell us of their frustration at the continued uncertainty around the economic direction of travel; some have postponed expansion plans, others are making contingencies to relocate staff overseas. This same economic uncertainty confounds the biggest challenge we face as local representatives: ensuring that sufficient numbers of new homes are built to tackle the housing crisis.

"A continuation of the status quo is out of the question. People deserve answers to the huge problems that led to the Leave vote, and which many of our constituents continue to raise with us: weariness after years of excessive public spending cuts; growing disillusionment about how opportunity seems less evenly spread than in previous generations; discomfort at an immigration system many perceive to be unfair. At what point will Labour admit that leaving the European Union will not solve these problems? When will we acknowledge that righting these wrongs will require resources that won’t exist if we leave the EU on terms worse than those currently in place? We suggest that time has already arrived."

Several senior Labour MPs have previously refused to rule out a second referendum but the shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has insisted the party does not support one.

James Coldwell of Southwark council, who signed the letter, said:

"Leavers and Remainers alike now see that the reality of Brexit bears almost no resemblance to what voters were sold last year. In changed circumstances, Labour must have the courage to offer voters the chance to say whether they wish to go ahead with Britain’s exit from the EU.

"Staying silent up to now has damaged the Tories enormously. But if Labour continues to treat Brexit as an exercise in political point-scoring, future generations won’t forgive us."