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Local Government Finances

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 8:28 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Julia Goldsworthy Julia Goldsworthy Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 8:28 pm, 8th December 2009

As the hon. Gentleman would know if he were paying any attention at all, it would be levied by local government.

The key point about the time of fiscal constraint that we are entering is that it provides an opportunity. All too often, politicians assume the lowest of intentions among members of the public. They assume that no one wants to participate, and that that is due not to a lack of opportunity but to their refusal to engage. My experience has shown that people are more than willing to give up large amounts of their time to become involved in something that they think is important to their communities if it can be demonstrated that their involvement will have an impact on the outcome.

The aim of the Total Place pilots and the work achieved by the Sustainable Communities Act 2007-I was disappointed to note that neither the Secretary of State nor the Minister was able to attend the meeting that was held about that earlier this evening-is not just to provide more transparency, to make more information available online, and to allow councils to scrutinise more public spending in local areas. It is not just about a process; it is about engaging people.

What the "Smarter Government" report does not make clear, and what the Government have failed to understand, is that if tough decisions are to be made about what should be the priorities at local level, those decisions should be made, engaged with and accountable for at local level. The Total Place pilots provide a real opportunity not just to ensure that bureaucrats from a number of different areas of public service sit around a table with their cheque books, but to allow people to engage in a debate. We have not heard enough from Government about that, but it is critical, which is why I was so disappointed that there was nothing about it in the Queen's Speech.

The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 represents another missed opportunity. Once again we were told that legislation would be all about engaging people in participation, but it ended up being about the architectural structures to which I believe the former Secretary of State has referred.

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