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Local Authority Budgets

Volume 714: debated on Monday 16 May 2022

As I mentioned before, this year’s local government finance settlement makes available £54.1 billion for councils in England—an increase of £3.7 billion on last year’s settlement—to ensure that councils have the resources that they need to deliver key services. That includes more than £1 billion for councils to meet social care pressures, and a new un-ringfenced 2022-23 services grant worth £822 million.

As a result of the Government’s actions—they cut Bedford Borough Council’s revenue support grant from over £30 million in 2015 to just £6.1 million in 2022-23—local authorities have been forced to raise council tax precepts to meet vital costs. The adult social care burden is ever increasing, and cannot be paid for unless the RSG is increased to a realistic level. Will the Minister tell us when the fair funding review will finally be published?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. We recognise that adult social care costs are increasing, which is why we have provided additional funding. For the hon. Gentleman’s borough of Bedford, we have provided an additional £2 million for this settlement year. We will continue to look at the pressure that councils are under, but I remind him that this settlement increased budgets significantly. Bedford Borough Council received a core spending power increase of 6.5% this year, worth £9.6 million. That makes available up to £156 million-worth of spending.

Ministers cannot escape the fact that according to the National Audit Office, 50% of central Government grant funding has been cut from the budgets of local authorities up and down the land since 2010. Ministers are living in a parallel universe where less is more. Millions have been taken out of the shared prosperity fund. The consequences are all too plain. We even have Sir Rod Stewart doing DIY, filling in potholes in Essex—a county with which the Minister will be familiar—and a third of libraries are closing. Those are real consequences.

At what stage will the Minister grasp the bull by the horns and provide fair funding for local authorities, based on genuine need? This should not be about competition or jumping through unnecessary hoops; we should be providing first-class public services for all.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the reason we have had such difficulties in local government spending is the terrible state of public finances that this Government found when they came into power 10 years ago. It is only because of the hard work that we have done over the last decade to repair the public finances that we have been able to provide additional funding for local government.