Local Government Finance

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 6:05 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Neil Turner Neil Turner Labour, Wigan 6:05 pm, 3rd February 2010

I welcome the settlement. It is an extremely good settlement for local government and builds on more than 10 years of above-inflation grants to local government. It is particularly welcome because the circumstances in which it was first mooted are very different from the present circumstances.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when the Conservative Government's home-grown recessions were putting pressure on local government, I remember the kind of things that they were doing. It must have been a temptation for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to follow their lead, with cuts in money, cuts in the percentage of funding that was given to local authorities, and cuts in the freedom of local authorities to act.

I was a councillor in the 1980s and 1990s and my local authority, Wigan metropolitan borough council, was losing £8 million to £10 million year on year because of the way in which the Conservative Government dealt with the recession. There was no planning or forward thinking. We got the first indication in November or December and confirmation in February, and we had to start planning our cuts from 1 April. It was a disaster. Cuts were implemented with no thought given to efficiency. It was inexcusable. Programmes were abandoned halfway through because we had been told that we could not have that kind of money. The Government could have done the same this year.

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