Skip to main content

Point of Order

Volume 705: debated on Thursday 16 December 2021

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I gave best wishes to Mr Speaker earlier, and I pass them on to you as well, for the coming season.

This is a time of year when many of us expect and think about the presents that we might get at Christmas. It is also a time when local councils up and down the country wait with concern to find out how much the Government intend to give them in revenue support and other grants for next year. It is an even more important time this year due to the covid pressures on councils, on top of an already difficult financial situation.

We would normally have an oral statement in the House today about local government finance for next year. We did not have one in 2019, for particular reasons associated with EU legislation going through, but every other year we have had an oral statement. This year, we are supposed to be getting a written statement, although it was still not in the Vote Office when I checked. Can it be anything to do with the fact that a story appeared in the Local Government Chronicle the other day that said:

“The Government is thought to be in ‘active discussion’ with between 20 and 30 councils about offering extra financial support to help them avoid effective bankruptcy”?

That is a serious situation. Very clearly, the Secretary of State ought to be before the House today explaining his financial proposals for next year and allowing Members to question him about them. As that is not the case, once we have had a briefing from the scrutiny unit, the Local Government Association and others, I hope there may be an opportunity after the recess to find a way to get the Secretary of State to come to the House to answer questions about this important matter.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. The Government have not informed the Chair of any intention to make an oral statement on the local government financial settlement. He is correct to say that, in recent years, there has normally been an oral statement on the matter. The Leader of the House has heard that point and I am sure that he will take that back and that we will return to this, perhaps as the hon. Gentleman said, in the new year.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I can write to Mr Speaker as well to see whether he can help in finding a way to get the Secretary of State back after the recess.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is well aware of all the routes that may be pursued through Mr Speaker to address some of the points that he has made.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The media today is full of stories relating to interest rates. Has there been any indication that an oral statement on this issue will come from the Chancellor or Ministers at his Department? I am ever mindful of the food price increase in my constituency of 20% and the energy price increase of 30%. The cost of living has increased by 5.1%, so these things will have a great impact on each and every one of us across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Perhaps I am wrong to think this, but given the importance of this issue, I thought that the Chancellor’s Department would make a statement today. Has there been any indication of that?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. I understand that interest rates have been increased. Again, the Leader of the House will have heard that point. The hon. Gentleman just asked a question to him, so he might have chosen to ask him that at that point. The hon. Gentleman has now had two bites of the cherry and the Leader of the House will have heard his comment.