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Local Government Funding

Volume 640: debated on Monday 30 April 2018

2. What steps his Department is taking to ensure fairness in the allocation of funding to local government. (905023)

11. What steps his Department is taking to ensure fairness in the allocation of funding to local government. (905034)

We are undertaking a fair funding review of local authorities’ relative needs and resources to address concerns about the fairness of the current system. We are making good progress in collaboration with the sector to introduce a simple, fair and transparent funding formula.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment and welcome the news on the progress of fair funding, but will he look carefully at running more business rates retention pilots, particularly in my area of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, as I believe they provide at least a short-term answer to unfair funding?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I welcome Staffordshire’s interest in future business rates retention pilots, and I hope it applies when the prospectus for 2019-20 pilots is issued. As the prospectus is open to all local authorities, as I think he knows, the decision on which applications are successful can be made only once they have all been considered, but obviously I will be examining the matter closely.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment. He will know that about one third of households in my Havant constituency contain an older person. Will he confirm that under his leadership the social care precepts and the better care fund will mean an extra £4 billion for social care in this Parliament, and will he continue to work with Hampshire County Council’s adult services department?

I know that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members from across the House care deeply about this subject. As he will be aware, in February my predecessor announced an additional £150 million for adult social care, which means that councils now have access to £9.4 billion in dedicated adult social care funding over three years.

Is the Secretary of State aware—and has he had a word with the Secretary of State for Education about it—that there are schools in Coventry that cannot afford school meals provision? What is he going to do about that?

I know that there are pressures in areas such as children’s social services and I am aware of the joined-up work my Department is doing with the Education Department. I look forward to talking to Cabinet colleagues about some of these overlapping issues. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand that, in the short time since my appointment, I have not had a chance to do that, but I will certainly be doing so.

The Office for National Statistics defines Haringey and other similar boroughs as inner-London boroughs because of their demographics and socioeconomic characteristics. Despite that, Haringey is excluded from the Government’s definition of an inner-London borough. Will the Secretary of State look at that carefully in his funding review so that boroughs such as Haringey can be brought up in line with the Islingtons and Camdens?

I will be looking at several issues as part of the fair funding review. The hon. Lady makes an interesting point, which I will consider as part of the overall review, and I am grateful to her for flagging it up.

The business rates retention pilot has been a lifeline to hard-pressed West Berkshire Council. Will my right hon. Friend also continue his predecessor’s pledge to tackle negative revenue support grant, because that will have a huge impact on hard-pressed local authorities?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for highlighting the business rates retention pilots. We are looking at the issue he raises quite closely and will be making further announcements in the coming weeks.

I echo your lovely words of condolence to the family of Michael Martin, Mr Speaker.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s reappointment to Cabinet. He has two shadow Secretaries of State to contend with, and I look forward to working with him and holding him and his Ministers to account on all things communities and local government. His appointment should bring a fresh approach to the crisis engulfing local government. He will know that Tory Northamptonshire is effectively insolvent and that Tory Worcestershire is now also experiencing financial pressure, with its chief executive saying last week that

“there comes a point where cost-cutting can’t go any further—there has to be a solution, and I think it has to be a national solution.”

Given that the pressures on children’s services and adult social care, alongside a 50% cut in their Government grant funding, are exacerbating these problems, will he now do what his predecessor failed to do and demand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the funding that our councils—all of them—so desperately need?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. In some ways, local government is in my blood: my father was the chief executive of a council, and some of the current debates about councils are ones that I had as a boy, believe it or not.

Let’s not overdo it, Mr Speaker.

I hoped that the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) would welcome the additional funds that have been given to councils for core spending. They constitute an important statement from the Government, who have given councils a real-terms increase in recognition of the challenges that they face. I hope the hon. Gentleman will also note the forthcoming social care Green Paper, which will enable us to engage in a further and broader debate about long-term funding for social care.