I thank the Secretary of State for outlining the Government's proposals on local government finance. I think that we all accept that the formula as it stands is extremely complicated. When the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Barbara Follett, outlined it in this Chamber at the end of last year, there was some humour in the fact that the guide that now goes with the formula claims to replace the previous plain-English-speaking guide. Local councils find themselves having to deal with an incredibly complicated formula.
The three-year local government finance settlement has been important for councils, and we recognise that it is important for them to be able to plan ahead. However, this is the last of the three years, and the Government have effectively delayed-many people would suspect cancelled-the comprehensive spending review, which could have given councils the framework for the next three years and an idea of what funding there may be. We now seem unlikely to get that before the election. If I am wrong about that, I am sure that the Secretary of State will intervene. [Interruption.] He indicates that it is not in his hands; it will be worrying for local government to know that he is not pressing to have more certainty in future.
This is an important matter. It is not just councils that need to understand the funding regime under which they will be operating. As the Secretary of State clearly demonstrated, it is important for families and local communities to understand the level of council tax and how the local government finance settlement could mean changes in their council tax bills, particularly as we are possibly still in the deepest, longest recession in many years.
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