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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:20 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 9:20 pm, 1st February 1995

I hate to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. If he knew the political geography of this country, he would know that Shropshire is not a Conservative council, nor, indeed is Warwickshire any more. It is interesting that the last time that Warwickshire council was capped was when the Conservatives ran the council, which may also say something about the way in which Conservatives in local government increasingly see central Government.

I shall quote briefly from a report about Shropshire in this morning's paper in which Alan Cooper, head teacher of The Marches school in Oswestry—a school considered to be among the best, not only in the county, but in the country—said: It was not the fault of the county council, … but government spending curbs which limited central grant to Shropshire". Up and down the land, the Government are being rumbled. People know that when class sizes increase it is because of the Government. People know that cuts in the social services budget, so that the vulnerable and the elderly cannot get the social services that they need, mean that the Government are at fault. People know very well that when they send delegations from their communities to meet the Minister, the answer may be sympathetic, but it is still no.

My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made a rather interesting point that each Conservative council which was considered to have whinged too much, and went to see the Minister, came away with a budget cut. That is an interesting statistic which perhaps explains the rather more credible view of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East, who told the House that the more secretive diplomacy of Westminster council was the way to get the Government to provide more funding.

We see the results all around us. We know that if the same favourable treatment which Westminster council received were offered to councils everywhere, few councils would not be able to reduce the council tax and few councils would not be able to provide better services. That is the reality of the modern Conservative Government. They are a Government who have no vision for local government, they see no future for local government, they let local government suffer further cuts for the foreseeable future and they treat local government in the most contemptuous and most corrupt way. The Minister should answer the charge. They are a Government who are not prepared to deal with the running sore of Westminster council. A Government who are prepared to reward Westminster council are, simply, not fit to be in charge of the future of local government.