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House of Commons Hansard
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Local Government Funding
16 March 2015
Volume 594
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3. What assessment he has made of the effect of local government funding changes on services since May 2010. [908049]

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Since 2010 councils have set balanced budgets and council tax has fallen by 11% in real terms. Public satisfaction with local services has been maintained and we have increased transparency so that residents can hold councils to account.

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The Public Accounts Committee report in January looking into the sustainability of local government finance clearly stated that the 10 most deprived areas in England and Wales have had cuts 10 times greater than those of the 10 wealthiest areas. Does that prove that we are not all in this together?

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Both the National Audit Office and the PAC report noted that all councils had managed to balance their budgets, and we should note that the 10% most deprived councils in the country receive 40% more than the most wealthy councils.

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Of course local authorities rely a great deal on central Government funding, but they also rely on budgets granted by other organisations. Will my hon. Friend have a word with Crawley borough council, which is in danger of losing £50,000 of England and Wales Cricket Board funding for new nets in Langley Green as a result of minor planning authority bureaucracy?

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I hope my hon. Friend raising that issue in the House today will buck up the council to respond in a more appropriate way.

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22. Despite being ranked in the top 10 in terms of deprivation, Hull city council has funding cuts of £279 per head, but Beverley in the East Riding, which is ranked 202 in terms of deprivation, has a cut of just £89 per head. [908070]

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The reality is that every part of local government has had to respond to the disastrous economy left by the last Government, but this Government have ensured that, despite the fact that we have had to reduce the amount of money to local government, we have given councils the opportunity to grow their economy, with retention of business rates and a reward for building houses. I encourage the hon. Gentleman’s local council to do the same.

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Despite cuts from Government to Shropshire council, council leader Keith Burrow has managed to freeze council tax for six years in a row. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the leader of Shropshire council on, despite the cuts and the freezing of council tax, maintaining and improving council services in Shropshire?

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I will certainly compliment my hon. Friend’s local leader on making that choice. Despite the challenges local authorities faced over recent years, some 64% of them have frozen their council tax in this financial period.

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17. Does the Minister agree with the conclusions of the Audit Commission, the National Audit Office and the International Monetary Fund, all of which say that the most deprived areas have been hit by the greatest cuts? Coventry is probably going to lose about 1,000 jobs and make cuts of about £75 million in the next two or three years, which will affect its basic services. [908065]

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This is now the largest growing economy in the G20. It is only through following a long-term economic plan in which we grow our economy, receive taxes for that activity, employ more people and have more apprentices that we can invest in public services.

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Last week at the Local Government Chronicle awards, Cheshire West and Chester council was the runner-up for the council of the year award. Does this not show that if councils improve their efficiency and their services, they can deliver better services in a tough economic situation?

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I compliment my hon. Friend’s council for taking the difficult decisions while at the same time delivering quality services. We should note that, despite the challenges that we have faced, public satisfaction with council services has remained constant during the term of this Government.

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In December 2010, the Secretary of State told the House:

“I have sought to achieve a fair and sustainable settlement for local government”.—[Official Report, 13 December 2010; Vol. 520, c. 679.]

How does the Minister now respond to all the evidence from the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee and the Communities and Local Government Select Committee that those cuts have been neither fair nor sustainable? And will he come clean about the bleak future that councils would face if the Tories were to press on with their plan to return Britain to the 1930s?

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Rather than just reading reports, I have been listening to lots of councils. During the local settlement agreement, I spoke to more than 100 councils, and not one of them said that they could not set a budget. Yes, these are difficult times, but they are difficult because of the failure of the last Government to manage the economy. We have now created the largest growing economy in the G20, with more people employed and more apprentices out there. More people are getting a job. That is the route that we need to follow, and we will deliver more spending in the public sector by having a strong economy.