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I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and add:
'congratulates the Government on introducing the first ever three year settlement for local government which will have provided an additional £8.6 billion for local government over three years, and continues to build upon the 39 per cent. real terms increase in funding provided to local government over the first 10 years of this Government;
welcomes the four per cent. increase proposed for next year which, given the current level of inflation, would be the 13th straight year of above inflation increases;
recognises the immense help this will give to local authorities throughout the country in dealing with difficult economic circumstances resulting from the global downturn;
anticipates the lowest council tax increase for 16 years;
rejects the calls from Her Majesty's Opposition to cut the Department for Communities and Local Government's budget by over £1 billion, which would lead either to cuts in local services or an increase in council tax bills of one per cent. to pay for the missing millions;
and further welcomes the Government's Green Paper, Shaping the Future of Care Together, which sets out its vision to reform the adult care and support system in England."
That was a very long speech. There is not a lot else to be said about it, but it was a very long speech. As my hon. Friends will have noticed, I am no Denis Healey and Robert Neill is no Geoffrey Howe, but I have a sense of how Denis Healey felt when he thought he had been savaged by a dead sheep.
I am grateful for the chance to reply to this debate. I have my notes that I prepared earlier, and they say:
"Sorry to see the Hon Member for Meriden not here to lead the debate."
I have now to say that Mrs. Spelman is here but is not leading the debate, and that is a surprise because the hon. Lady has, after all, been complaining that Parliament has not debated these issues.
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