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Local Services (CSR)

Volume 520: debated on Tuesday 21 December 2010

9. What assessment his Department has made of the effects of the outcome of the comprehensive spending review on the provision of local services in deprived areas. (31822)

It is for Departments to decide how best to prioritise resources within their departmental expenditure limits. The consequences in particular locations will become apparent only once these decisions have been made. However, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced the provisional local government finance settlement on Monday, and the balance of the settlement is more heavily weighted towards councils that are more dependent on central Government grants and have greater relative needs.

Salford is ranked 15th in average scores for the 50 most deprived districts in England. The front-loaded grant cuts announced in the spending review mean that next year Salford council is faced with making budget cuts of 15%, or £40 million, which will have an impact on services such as social care for frail older or disabled people. How does the Minister square that reality with the Government’s pledge in the spending review to limit the impact of spending reductions on the most vulnerable in our society?

Had we proceeded with the spending formula that existed under the previous Government, some of the deprived areas that are most dependent on central Government grant would have faced a greater cut than the one in the proposals announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Does the Minister agree with me, and my constituents in Dover and Deal, that the council tax freeze is very welcome, and stands in sharp contrast to the massive rises that have hit the poor, elderly and vulnerable in recent years?

With reference to the comprehensive spending review, the council tax freeze and the other measures that we have announced demonstrate that we are making every effort to ensure that the difficult decisions that we have to make because of the deficit are reached in a way that is fair.

But will the Minister now acknowledge that the spending review was in fact brutally regressive and hit the poorest hardest, especially when we see how the figures announced last week will affect individual councils and communities? For example, how can he justify the percentage changes announced last week to the local authority specific grants for learning disabilities, Sure Start and One to One tuition? The most deprived 10th of local authorities will see a drop—minus 12%—whereas the wealthiest decile will see an increase of more than 24%. How is that fair or progressive?

When we look at 2011 and onwards, we see that this is a Government who are bringing in the pupil premium and funding social care. Labour Members, when they were in government, were planning to make cuts in 2011-12. Where would they have made their cuts? We have done everything we can to protect the poorest in the very difficult circumstances left us by the Opposition.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the pupil premium in the comprehensive spending review will have a transformative effect on helping the poorest in Brentford and Isleworth, and elsewhere?

Within the comprehensive spending review we have given priority to school funding. The pupil premium will help the poorest, which is indicative of the Government’s values in looking to the long term, looking at fairness, and ensuring that young people have an opportunity that they did not necessarily get under the previous Government.