Force of habit, Mr Speaker.
I beg to move,
That this House
regrets the decision of the Government to introduce £1.165 billion of cuts to local government funding in England in the current financial year;
regrets the Liberal Democrat members of the Government supporting cuts they opposed during the general election campaign;
notes the promise in the Coalition Agreement to "ensure that fairness is at the heart of those decisions so that all those most in need are protected";
regrets that this programme of cuts fails to meet this test of fairness, as they fall disproportionately on the hardest-pressed communities;
notes with concern the principle set out by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on
condemns the failure of the Secretary of State to tell the House or local authorities where £504 million of cuts to funding will fall;
further regrets the failure to consult local government on the allocation of the cuts;
further notes with regret that the Government's further decisions on the Future Jobs Fund, housing and support for neighbourhood policing will weaken the ability of local councils to shape and deliver services in their areas;
regrets the failure to make any progress on implementing the previous administration's commitment to Total Place, enabling local authorities to deliver real efficiency savings and contribute to reducing the deficit while protecting frontline services;
and resolves that decisions affecting local government spending should be based on the principles of fairness, protection of frontline services and promotion of growth.
I was interested to hear the earlier exchanges about Ministers not turning up for debates. May I say how disappointed I am that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has not bothered to turn up for this one? In 10 years as a Minister, I always respected the strong convention in the House that if a shadow Secretary of State chose to lead an Opposition day debate, the Secretary of State would respond. I am very disappointed that, on the first Opposition day debate on a Communities and Local Government topic, the Secretary of State could not be bothered to be here. The truth is, of course, that he is too scared to be here. He is too scared to explain the series of blunders that he has already made over these cuts. He is so scared of defending what he is doing that he prefers to treat the House with disdain. So we shall have to make do with the Minister for Housing, Grant Shapps instead.
I remember when my right hon. Friend John Healey and I insisted that building firms who took public money to build social housing should train apprentices. When they did so, the current Minister described it as ludicrous and counter-productive. We have all seen the minutes of his meeting with the Prime Minister's adviser on local government, the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, at which it was agreed that it was a priority to raise rents in the social sector to equalise those between social housing and the private sector. So we know where he is coming from-he has got form.
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