The hon. Lady will be aware that the recent settlement confirmed a real-terms increase in the resources available to local authorities. The Government responded to pressures faced by councils in the autumn Budget and supported financial sustainability with more than £1 billion of additional funding across this year and next.
Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson), we are very short of time so I hint that the hon. Members for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) and for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) could usefully seek to take part in the exchanges on this question, if they were so inclined. It would work perfectly well.
Since 2010, Sunderland City Council has been forced to make cuts of more than £290 million, yet the announcement today of the so-called stronger towns fund will see only £105 million for the whole of the north-east region put together. Given that our communities will be hit hardest by this Government’s Brexit plan, does the Minister seriously expect us to be grateful for this announcement, and does he expect us to support another decade of Brexit-driven austerity and decline?
I gently point out to the hon. Lady that the towns fund that she talks about has the highest per capita allocation exactly to her area, and it is something that she should be welcoming for her constituents. Beyond that, the only way sustainably to provide and fund the services that we care about is to drive economic growth, efficiency and innovation. I am glad that her council participated in our digital innovation programme, and that 100 other local authorities are benefiting from our business rates pilots to keep more of their economic growth in their local community.
I know that the Secretary of State will be making a more detailed statement on the towns fund later when I am sure that he can address my hon. Friend’s specific question. This is a separate process from the fair funding review, which is, I know, something that all colleagues are interested to hear. That process is regarding ongoing spending and that will be done through the spending review later this year.
Will the Minister say how the financial sustainability of local government is helped by what amounts to negative rates support grants, where councils are paying in more to central Government than they get back?
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was not here for the recent local government settlement. It is exactly because of the threat to sustainability that this Government eliminated negative RSG, which is something that the sector had asked for and we were pleased to meet that concern at the recent settlement.
We take funding for county areas extremely seriously, and it is of course important that the new funding formula accurately reflects needs brought about by changing demographics on the ground. I can assure my hon. Friend that I will continue to work with him, the County Councils Network and others to ensure that our new formula is fit for the future.