Councils have complete flexibility in where they find savings to ensure that costs are reduced while they continue to support key front-line services. The voluntary sector is an important part of that.
I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, but is not the reality that, as in Chesterfield, many of our voluntary sector organisations rely on core funding from the local government sector, and that the cuts in the local government sector will inevitably lead to a reduction in that core funding that will fundamentally undermine any possibility that the voluntary sector can play a part in this big society?
Well, it is not inevitable. I have just said that councils have complete flexibility in how they set priorities, and local authorities will need to prioritise. I say to the hon. Gentleman and the whole House that just as Ministers here have made sure that the £6.2 billion reductions hit just as hard at the centre as on local authorities, so local authorities need to have the same regard for the voluntary sector.
The voluntary sector in my constituency is, as I imagine is the case everywhere, extremely anxious about the impact that reductions in local government funding will have on the service they can provide, and nowhere more so than in relation to infrastructure. What is the Minister’s attitude to infrastructure bodies and how does he believe they should be funded?
I certainly understand that anxiety. The whole country is anxious about the financial circumstances we face, both in the public finances and in the voluntary sector, and it will be extremely important for partners to work together, including local authorities and the voluntary sector, to overcome those difficulties in the very difficult circumstances we face.