Skip to main content

Local Government: Savings

Volume 560: debated on Monday 18 March 2013

7. What steps he has taken to help local authorities to deliver sensible savings in local government. (148143)

We have published “50 ways to save”, a practical guide to councils on how they can save money and still protect front-line services. We are also supporting councils with more detailed guidance, including how to save money by scrapping taxpayer funding of trade unions and sacking town hall pilgrims.

My own Hastings borough council has recently entered into a shared recycling and waste service with three other local councils, saving up to £600,000 for Hastings alone. Does the Secretary of State have any other suggestions for shared services that councils can enter into in order to make greater savings?

My hon. Friend will recall that Hastings was the council that the previous Labour Administration forgot, in that they abandoned it with regard to the level of grant and we had to put in transitional measures to help it. I recently met the leader of Hastings council, who suggested his willingness to work alongside us to increase the council’s efficiency. Adur and Worthing councils are not far away and have saved more than £9 million by forming a single senior officer structure and by sharing services. I urge my hon. Friend to urge her council to adopt a similar approach.

21. Is the closure of children’s centres one of the Secretary of State’s top 50 ways to save money? Many local authorities are closing them because of the economic situation they find themselves in and the lack of Government support. (148157)

Conservative councils throughout the country are doing exactly the opposite. It is about time that Labour councils stopped shroud waving and accepted that they do these things under their own decision. If they want additional resources, there is nothing to prevent them from applying for an increase in council tax. The only problem, of course, is that they have to persuade their population of that, so I suggest that the hon. Gentleman become slightly more silver tongued with his population than he is with me.

20. Central Bedfordshire council has managed to reduce its costs by £52 million while maintaining and, in some cases, even improving standards. Does the Secretary of State agree that where Central Bedfordshire leads, other councils could usefully follow? (148156)

That is, of course, true of many things that Central Bedfordshire does. I urge my hon. Friends to be careful about making such points because of the pain they are causing Labour Members, whose stress levels are enormous. They obviously feel desperately ashamed of their own Labour councils.

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Lancashire county council has just produced a 12-page, full-colour newspaper of propaganda on the rates, which the Secretary of State has criticised in the past. Does he agree with 12-page, full-colour propaganda being put out just before an election, wasting ratepayers’ money?

I tell you what: if every council cuts its council tax by 2%, I might re-look at some of the unpleasant things I have talked about. I will look carefully at what the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but I suspect that it is an honest assessment of the current situation, that it gives information to people and that we will not find horoscopes or TV listings in it. Lancashire has a vibrant local press.