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Local Government (Savings)

Volume 569: debated on Monday 21 October 2013

I published “50 ways to save”, a practical guide for councils, which describes how they can make the most of their budgets to deliver savings, protect front-line services and keep council tax down.

East Hampshire district council has saved more than £5 million since 2010 by joining forces with Havant borough council and establishing a joint senior management team. What other such opportunities might exist elsewhere and what guidance has been given?

I commend East Hampshire and Havant councils for their excellent work together. To be frank, this is the future, whether we are talking about a relatively small district, a county or a unitary authority. It makes sense to work together on joint procurement, joint use of offices and shared services. That is probably one of the reasons why the recent BBC ICM poll shows that in many areas resident satisfaction in services such as rubbish collection, schools and libraries is improving.

The Prime Minister says that we are all in this together, but between 2010-11 and 2012-13 his local authority of West Oxfordshire—one of the least deprived in the country—is losing only £34 per head, compared with Hackney, the most deprived area in the country, which faces a massive cut of £266, and my constituency, which faces a cut of £234. Does the Secretary of State think that is fair and will he reassure the House that the local government financial settlement for 2013-14 will narrow the gap?

If the hon. Gentleman is going to ask a Whips’ question, he should at least try to memorise it. He will know that the top-spending authorities, which are largely Labour authorities, are getting something like an extra £700 per household. To compare a tiny district council with his own is utterly ridiculous.

Through the Secretary of State, may I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis) for visiting Kettering borough council last week? Would the Secretary of State like to take this opportunity to congratulate the council, which for the past three years has frozen council tax, has not cut any front-line services and has maintained all its grants to the voluntary sector?

That just shows what a committed Conservative council will do, compared with Labour authorities, which seem to be interested in shroud-waving and cutting front-line services.

Liverpool city council will have seen a real-terms Government grant cut of 56% between 2010 and 2017. That £329 million reduction means that come 2017 we will have a shortfall of £17 million for mandatory services. Why are the most deprived areas being hit the hardest?

We are funding hard-hit areas to a greater extent. Something like the amount of money paid per household in Liverpool will be well above the amount that is paid in more prosperous parts of the country. I do not recall the hon. Lady saying that kind of thing when we put together the multi-million-pound city deal for Liverpool.