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Local Government Finance Settlement

Volume 672: debated on Monday 24 February 2020

6. What steps he has taken to ensure that local authorities receive adequate funding in the local government finance settlement for 2020-21. (900867)

This afternoon, we will debate and vote on the final local government finance settlement for 2020-21. The settlement is a huge investment in the sector, with a £1.5 billion boost for social care and the biggest year-on-year increase in spending power for a decade.

I am grateful to the Minister for detailing the amount by which he is increasing funding for local government spending, but Wyre Forest District Council has seen a 2.7% drop in funding, which is very disappointing. That is largely due to the fall-off in the new homes bonus. The council is doing its best to grant planning, but the problem is that developers are land banking. What can my hon. Friend do to help district councils that are doing their best to deliver new homes but are facing increasing land banking by developers? If his answer did not include anything to do with compulsory purchase, that would be terrific.

My hon. Friend is right that Wyre Forest’s core funding has gone up in line with inflation this year—an extra £46,000—but its funding has decreased due to the fall in new homes bonus payments, which are time limited and based on local home-building performance. It is worth noting that Worcestershire County Council will gain an extra £26.1 million this coming financial year and that across the country we see a 4.4% real-terms increase in core spending power, but we have committed to reviewing the new homes business and I look forward to working with him as we take that forward.

I welcome the Minister back to his place on the Government Front Bench. He is boasting that in the coming funding settlement he is offering a 4.4% boost for local authorities next year. Any budget growth is welcome, after a decade of decline, but he fails to tell the House that more than half of his figure is predicated entirely on every council in England increasing council tax and the social care levy by the maximum amount. Why does he feel the need to hide behind inflated council tax increases to present his good news to the House?

I am glad that the hon. Member welcomes the increase in core spending power for councils around the country. I hope he will vote for it this evening to make sure that councils have the funding they need. This is a huge investment of £1.5 billion in social care. The Government are protecting council tax payers from excessive increases, as stated in our manifesto, and we will make sure that the 4.4% real-terms spending increase—£2.9 billion—goes straight to the frontline of local authorities.

Of all my discussions in my constituency, it is the funding for the local council that is of real concern to me. There is not sufficient funding coming through to help Shropshire Council deal with the huge increases in adult social care costs. In addition, Shrewsbury is flooded today, and the council is grappling with that situation as well. We need more money for our local councils.

I was pleased to meet my hon. Friend and his local authority recently to discuss the important points he raises. He will of course know of the increased investment in his local authority to deal with social care, but he raises some serious points, and I look forward to ongoing discussions with him about how we tackle these issues in the weeks ahead.

Oh, thank you, Mr Speaker. You took me by surprise.

Can I ask the Government Front-Bench team to wake up a bit? [Laughter.] I had rehearsed that line; I had to use it. I want them to wake up. Yes, local authorities have been starved of resources, and of course we all want money for local authorities, but we also want this Front-Bench team and this Government to put in place real incentives for a sustainable housing policy and for how our towns can grow and meet all the needs of our communities. We need sustainability—get on with it!

I hope the hon. Gentleman will contribute to the consultation on the new homes bonus when it comes out. There is a real-terms increase in core spending power. If he wants more money for local authorities, it is time he put his money where his mouth is and voted for the settlement this evening.