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Council Services

Volume 613: debated on Monday 18 July 2016

4. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of councils in delivering front-line services while limiting council tax levels. (905886)

We are putting more power in the hands of councils—through devolution deals and the retention of 100% of business rates—to ensure that councils can save money and maintain front-line services.

I thank the Minister for his response. Proper local plans for good front-line planning departments are labour intensive and require meticulous work by local authority officers. Does the Minister agree that creating a poor plan, which then fails due to a lack of evidence, is an example of the shocking waste of hard-earned council taxpayers’ money?

I find myself agreeing with my hon. Friend. Planning should be at the heart of what local councils do. Local councils should be setting a vision for the area, and using that as a framework for development. It should be a top priority for all councils. Where it does not happen, we should expect them to resource it properly.

How on earth can local authorities manage to run their affairs in the way they used to, when this Government have cut £157 million from Derbyshire County Council? The same has applied to Labour-controlled Bolsover in a proportionate way. This Minister has a cheek to be talking about local government being able to spend money properly when his Government have been taking its money away.

The hon. Gentleman should know that funding is broadly flat in cash terms. More importantly, it is perfectly possible to find savings—local councils spend £1 in every £4 of public money—and at the same time to maintain and enhance local services.

To deliver greater devolution responsibility for local authorities, what more can be done to attract the very best councillors, particularly those with busy and successful careers?

I know that many colleagues in the House have considerable experience in this area, and it is something that I shall be looking at, because I have found that in local authorities across the country that I have visited, there is a very mixed level of ability, let us say, and more needs to be done.

I hope the Secretary of State is aware of a recent report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, which found that 93% of councils implemented the social care precept, but that raised only £380 million. Some £1.1 billion is needed to maintain social care at its current level. Social care is facing a perfect storm—there is growing demand from an ageing population, costs are rising, and budgets are being squeezed by central Government cuts—so what action is the Minister going to take to address the chronic underfunding of our social care?

It is a huge priority for this Government to make sure that adult social care is funded adequately. I do not accept that it is underfunded. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the precept. By the end of this Parliament it will raise an additional £2 billion a year. On top of that, the Government asked local councils how much they thought they would need by the end of this Parliament for adult social care. The number that came back was £2.9 billion; they got £3.5 billion.