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Local Government Finance

Volume 669: debated on Monday 13 January 2020

1. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of Government funding for local authorities in England. (900100)

13. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of Government funding for local authorities in England. (900113)

Next year’s settlement for local government responds to the pressures facing councils by providing access to the largest year-on-year increase in spending power for a decade. Core spending power is expected to rise from £46.2 billion to £49.1 billion in 2020-21—an estimated 4.4% real-terms increase.

Big-city authorities such as Manchester have been hit hardest by the cuts at the same time as they have had to deal with the extra costs of deprivation, such as high demand on social care budgets, poor health, and homelessness, with big cities being magnets for homeless people from the wider region. What guarantees can the Minister give that those pressures will be reflected properly in the new funding formula?

Manchester City Council will receive a £30.9 million increase in the provisional settlement—a 7% rise that includes 17.6% in additional adult social care grant. Decisions on the future funding formula are to be taken in the weeks ahead, but we will release some provisional figures in the coming weeks for working groups to look at.

If the Government are to deliver on their commitment to the north, combined authorities must receive fair funding. The Government have promised to level up throughout the country, so will the Minister confirm that in any new devolution deal funding for West Yorkshire Combined Authority will match that of any other combined authority, such as Greater Manchester, on a per-head basis?

Negotiations on the deal are ongoing, but we are optimistic. We can confirm that Bradford Council will receive an increase of £25.6 million in the settlement—a 6.4% real-terms rise in core spending power on last year.

One local government problem that is becoming more expensive is the repair and reopening of Hammersmith bridge. On that and the reopening of Harwood Terrace, will my hon. Friend tell the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to get on with it so that we can get traffic moving again in west London? Will my hon. Friend or the Secretary of State agree to meet me to discuss the matter?

My right hon. Friend has been working hard on this issue on behalf of his constituents, and I am happy to meet him to discuss it in the weeks ahead.

May I welcome the real-terms increase for local authorities over the next two years, which is the result of our balanced approach to the economy? Will my hon. Friend update the House on the steps his Department is taking to make councils more efficient?

May I welcome my hon. Friend to his place in the House? He is already looking to be a champion for his community. We are of course working with local authorities to make sure that they can become more efficient, especially in respect of digital transformation. My hon. Friend’s local authority and those throughout the country will have access in the coming year to the 4.4% real-terms rise in core spending power.

Happy new year to you, Mr Speaker.

It is 173 days—almost 25 weeks or almost six months—since the Secretary of State was appointed, so it is nice that we finally have local government questions. With local government in crisis, children’s services, which are included in that, are also in crisis. According to the Tory-led Local Government Association, the number of children in care is up 28%, child protection plans are up 53%, and there has been a staggering 139% increase in serious cases. With the funding gap growing to £3.1 billion by 2025, sticking plasters will not do, so will the Minister now commit finally to fix this crisis and ensure that his Chancellor fully funds children’s services in future?

This is the best provisional local government settlement for almost 10 years: a 4.4% rise in real-terms funding and a £2.9 billion increase in local government spending. We propose to allow local authorities to set council tax increases of up to 2%, and another 2% for adult social care. It is a positive settlement and I hope the hon. Gentleman will support it in the weeks ahead.