The Government are committed to ensuring that local authorities are able to deliver vital public services. At the spending review last year, we provided councils with the largest annual increases in core funding in over a decade, and the Chancellor will set out further information on the Government’s fiscal approach at the autumn statement on Thursday.
If we are ever to have a sustainable set of council services, we have to move money upstream into services that can help us tackle rising demand. That is the non-statutory stuff—prevention services in communities, such as children’s services or youth centres, for example—but when budgets are tight, those non-statutory services are often the first to go, which removes councils’ ability to intervene and manage demand. With that in mind, what can my right hon. Friend do to support councils by ensuring that we take a long-term approach to managing those public services rather than adopting counter-productive plans based only on short-term budget pressures?
First, I would like to thank my hon. Friend for the four-page letter that he sent to the Secretary of State, which I have studied carefully. He makes some sensible suggestions and recognises the dynamics of different pots being used effectively within local government, and as a local authority leader himself, he is obviously on the frontline addressing these budgets. In last year’s spending review we put money into supporting families and family hubs, and provided £500 million of “start for life” investment, but he makes a sensible point and on Thursday he will see how we are going to make that money work.
My local authority of Hackney has suffered cuts of nearly 50% over the last decade or so, but it nevertheless delivers efficient public services. Money given to good local authorities can be more cost-effective and better value for money for the taxpayer, so will the Minister consider that as the Chancellor approaches Thursday?
Absolutely, I will. Of course, it is not just about the cash settlement; it is about the interaction with other pots of money that are being spent, particularly in the health service, which is at the top of my mind and the Chancellor’s mind as we concentrate on what to do on Thursday.