We are very supportive of moves to ensure that transparency is developed and improved in councils. We think that that is the best way to enable local residents to hold their local authorities to account.
In place of the local government finance settlement approach that we heard about from the Secretary of State, we want local communities and local authorities to be given more power to deliver their priorities on the ground. We want local residents to be able to cap their council tax if they think that that is their priority, rather than having Ministers do it whether it is or not. In the earlier debate, which you were here for, Madam Deputy Speaker, a variety of hon. Members complained about the fact that their police authorities had been capped, as local people were perfectly happy to pay more-their priority was to see more police on their streets. We think that that is the right way to go: to give local people the choice, rather than have it taken away.
Whatever the Prime Minister says this week, councils have nothing new to look forward to from the Secretary of State or from the Minister. It is more of the same when we look through this local government finance settlement. There is continued top-down ring-fencing of money that should be spent on residents' priorities, rather than Whitehall priorities. There is a continued lack of incentives for councils to develop their local communities and economies. There is continued pressure on council tax to rise, when family finances are stretched to the limit, because councils are asked to take up, on behalf of Whitehall, so many unfunded initiatives. There is continued micro-management and inspection from above, which costs money that could otherwise go into front-line services.
The bottom line is that we need to give councils the freedom that they crave to deliver better services and better value, and to deliver on the priorities that matter most to their local communities. However, as we have heard today, for that to happen, we will need a change of Government-it will not happen under this one.
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