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Local Government Funding

Volume 651: debated on Monday 10 December 2018

20. What steps his Department is taking to review the distribution of funding to local government. (908109)

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to answer Question 9 with Question 17.

We are undertaking a review of local authorities’ relative resource and needs. We are making good progress in collaboration with the sector and are considering many topics that hon. Members have raised as we look to introduce a simple, accurate and transparent new funding formula.

Before the hon. Gentleman puts his question, I appreciate that the Minister is probably operating on earlier intelligence, but Question 17 has gone, and therefore the grouping is merely with Question 20—a point that I am sure other Members instantly knew and of which I am merely reminding them.

As the Minister knows, small urban areas have limited space to generate increased new homes bonus. If my hon. Friend could announce that Gloucester and Cheltenham were to be pilot projects for retaining all business rates revenue, that would be a welcome Christmas present, but in the absence of that, what advice would he give to good urban councils that are keen to maintain their services and regenerate their city or borough centres?

I was delighted to meet recently my hon. Friend and those in his local authority. It was inspiring to hear their ambitious plans to grow the local economy, and I commend them for their vision. I would urge them to look at the recently announced high streets fund, which can help them to ensure that their town remains a vibrant and prosperous community.

As part of the review, will my hon. Friend ensure that councils such as Erewash have the funding necessary to properly support residents affected by High Speed 2 and mitigate the impact that this line will have on our towns?

My hon. Friend is right to raise that. The review relates to the distribution of funding for core services that are funded through the local government finance settlement, but the Government have introduced a number of statutory and non-statutory compensation schemes along the HS2 route, including in my hon. Friend’s constituency, which are designed to compensate those whose properties are affected.

It is neither hysterical nor alarmist to say that local government faces an existential threat to its very being when even sensible, efficient and serious councils such as Ealing are having to cut their services to the bone and beyond. It is quite right that the Local Government Association’s current campaign is called “Breaking Point”. Has the Minister met the LGA, and if so, what succour can he offer it and councils such as Ealing?

I meet the LGA on almost a weekly basis, I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman. I can also say that the LGA, the County Councils Network and many other part of the local government sector warmly welcome the announcements in the recent Budget providing a substantial increase in funding for social care. They believe enormously in the confidence that this Government have shown in local authorities, when it comes to the future high streets fund and others, and in their ability to deliver for their communities and their residents.

The Minister may have read the article on the front page of today’s Manchester Evening News, which is both powerful and harrowing. It is a truly awful account of what it is like for homeless families in Manchester today by the brilliant journalist Jennifer Williams. When will the Government come forward with a proper comprehensive plan for funding for local government so that it can serve families and, when they are in desperate need, house them in decent homes?

I thank the hon. Lady for bringing to my attention that article, which I will be sure to look at later today. I know the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs Wheeler), who has responsibility for housing and homelessness, is hard at work tackling this difficult issue, with over £1 billion committed over the next few years. Indeed, I believe Manchester is a pilot for the Housing First schemes as well.