With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to take Questions 10 and 22 together. We have published—
Of course, and apologies, Mr Speaker.
We have published “50 ways to save”, a practical guide to councils on how they can make the most of their budgets through saving money—making sure the pennies get taken care of, so the pounds do as well. We have also developed the transformational challenge award to encourage councils that are looking innovatively at how they can work together, such as St Edmundsbury borough council, which I visited this morning and is saving almost £1 million a year through shared management with its neighbours.
The people of Wirral have had many words to say about the level of cuts to our local authority budget that we have had to face, but “sensible” has not been one of them. May I therefore ask the Minister what conversations he has had with Treasury Ministers about the forthcoming spending review, and what he is going to do to help out areas such as Wirral and the Liverpool city region that took very serious cuts last time?
We will have the spending review in just a few weeks’ time, of course, but the hon. Lady needs to look at the starting point as well and understand that the amount of money spent per household in Liverpool was among the highest in the country. All authorities, however, should be making sure that they have got the right management cost structures and are spending money on front-line services, not back-office costs.
22. In this year’s budget Medway council is using half of its unallocated reserves for a new development fund to support future regeneration. What are the Government doing to encourage local authorities to use their reserves to support local communities? (157182)
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Authorities that are looking carefully at what to do with their reserves are doing the right thing. It is right that they should keep reasonable reserves, but they should not be at too high a level, as they are there to be used. It is absolutely right that authorities look at using their reserves to invest in their communities, to the benefit of their communities both now and in the future.