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Local Authorities: Government Funding

Volume 662: debated on Monday 17 June 2019

3. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of changes in the level of Government funding for local authorities on the adequacy of the services that they provide. (911353)

21. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of changes in the level of Government funding for local authorities on the adequacy of the services that they provide. (911374)

Our recent settlement confirmed an increase of £1.3 billion in resources for local government this year. This real-terms increase recognises the critical services that local government delivers. Core funding is nearly all un-ring-fenced, giving local government control over its local income and the freedom and flexibility to spend according to local needs.

We know only too well by now that central Government underfunding of local authorities has devastated many of our constituents through cuts to many essential services. Perhaps the most dismal funding failure of all from this Government has been on housing, with the building of social housing at its lowest level since world war two. When will the Government wake up and realise that our housing is in crisis and at breaking point?

I say gently to the hon. Gentleman that he has not recognised one of our biggest reforms in social housing, which has been to lift the housing revenue account borrowing cap. This will enable councils to borrow in order to build a new generation of council homes, and I want to see councils utilising and harnessing that so that we can build homes for people and ensure that councils play their part in that.

Lewisham Council is fully committed to using the public health model to tackle youth violence, but since 2010, its budget has been cut by more than 60%. The Home Secretary says that the Government are also committed to that approach, but how does the Minister expect local authorities to put sufficient funding into schools, social services, housing and youth services when their budgets are being slashed?

I would highlight the fact that £261.2 million is being made available in Lewisham in 2019-20—a £7 million increase. The hon. Lady makes an important point about knife crime, and this is why we have targeted support through our troubled families programme, with around £9.8 million pounds being made available to actually get through to some of these issues with young people and to see that some of the work around families is accentuated. I am sure she will have an opportunity to make further points in the urgent question that will follow Question Time.

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that in counties such as Shropshire, where our elderly population is growing at a disproportionate rate compared with the rest of the country, adult social care costs are going up very quickly? What steps is he going to take with the Treasury to ensure that more money is provided to enable rural shire counties such as Shropshire to deal adequately with adult social care costs?

I know that my hon. Friend will recognise the £650 million in additional funding that has been provided to local government for social care in 2019-20. He highlights some of the differentials around rural services, and as part of our fair funding review, we want to ensure that that is properly captured.

Social care needs both urgent funding and certainty from year to year, so that councils can rely upon funding packages such as those outlined by the Secretary of State. What can he do to assure us that rural councils will be properly accounted for in any business rates review?

My hon. Friend will no doubt be aware of some of the business rates retention pilots that are under way. They are a core element of our reforms. However, the whole concept of assurance for rural areas is part of our work through the fair funding review, and I appreciate the representations that he and others have made.

19. The local government funding settlement did nothing to tackle the crippling financial pressure on councils following eight years of austerity. Will the Secretary of State tell the House how he intends to respond to local authorities in 2019 when they have to choose between delivering children’s services, delivering adult social care and emptying the bins? (911372)

This year’s funding settlement offers local councils up and down the country a real-terms increase in core funding. Equally, the additional £650 million for social care is intended to address and respond to some of the issues around those services. However, she is right about the need for further reform in the longer term, and that is what we as a Government are determined to deliver.

But back in the real world, 763 youth centres have closed, over 700 libraries have closed, Sure Start and early years services have been cut in half, and one in five children are now growing up in poverty. The legacy of this Government is a decade of neglect as local government takes the biggest hit at the altar of Tory austerity. So what is the Secretary of State most proud of: an entire sector at breaking point, or the increased inequality that his savage cuts have created?

There are now more children’s centres than at any time prior to 2008, and quality has also improved. In 2010, 68% of early years providers were good or outstanding. Today, the proportion is 95%. As for outcomes, 52% of children left reception with a good level of development in 2013. Today, the proportion is 72%. I know that local government faces challenges, which is why I have argued the case for the settlement that we have this year, but the picture painted by the hon. Gentleman is designed to inflame rather than to reflect the reforms made by this Government and the positive improvements that have been delivered.