Having set out the challenge to local government, whereby we need to ensure that every taxpayer's pound works as hard it can, I should say that it is obviously important that the Government support local councils in making the necessary changes. That is why, with local authorities, this Labour Government have pioneered the Total Place initiative, which looks at all public service spending in each area and how it can best be used, together with local council and councils, with their democratic mandate, to ensure that local services respond to local needs.
I welcome the Opposition's recent belated recognition that the extension of further scrutiny of health and other public services is needed to equip councils with the powers that they need to act decisively on behalf of local residents, including the powers to scrutinise, influence and shape other services. In future, this means that local government will not just be overseeing its own services; in addition, councillors will be able to challenge how all local services are delivered, regardless of the provider. As the pre-Budget report confirmed, Total Place is not just a direction of travel but the future of local government and local public services under a Labour Government. The Opposition may make a rhetorical commitment to Total Place, but we have shown in past debates where their polices will lead: a postcode lottery as entitlements and inspection are abandoned, and two-tier "Ryanair" councils providing a most basic service and leaving only those who can afford to pay able to access a decent service. That is not the kind of localism that I want to see.
This is a good funding settlement. We have delivered average increases of 4 per cent., giving councils scope not only to keep council tax down but to deliver the crucial services on which local residents rely. I think I have shown that some of the promises being made by the Conservatives are unfunded and cannot be believed, and they need to be exposed as such.
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