I shall give way again in a few moments, but I want to make a little progress.
What is quite clear is that all this is not an accident; it reflects the values of the coalition. I have talked so far about the Secretary of State's figures. When he published the written ministerial statement, he said with great flourish that no council would lose more than 2% of its budget this year. That is bad enough; it is not trivial. It feels about 30% worse than that, however, if we take into account the cuts implemented from today. By the time most councils have been able to put cuts into practice, it is going to feel twice that level of cut.
The truth is far worse, because the Secretary of State consciously withheld the true situation from the House. In the figures that were published, over £500 million of the £1.16 billion of cuts was not allocated to local authorities, so no one could tell what the impact would be: it was kept secret-kept under wraps, kept from this House. A few days before, the centralising, dictatorial Secretary of State had instructed local authorities, under threat of punishment by law if they refused, to publish details of every item of spending over £500. As his hapless Minister told the House, no one had even bothered to work out what that would cost local taxpayers; it was just another diktat from behind the big man's desk. Yet the same Secretary of State who can tell councils what to do down to the last £500 could not manage to tell this House or local councils where he was cutting £500 million. It is ridiculous.
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