Local Government Financing

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 29th June 2010.

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 3:43 pm, 29th June 2010

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I shall move straight to that point. It is very clear that the right-wing coalition is handling these cuts in a way that is creating much deeper damage than is needed. My hon. Friend should not be in any doubt: cuts would have had to be made under our deficit reduction programme. They would not have been as big or as fast, but difficult decisions would have had to be made none the less. There are big efficiency savings to be made, many of which were set out in the report that we published before the election, written by Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester city council, and Sir Steve Bullock, mayor of Lewisham. They set out very clearly the savings that could be made from sharing services, sharing staffing and reducing layers of management, but those changes need to be properly planned and implemented consistently over several years, always putting citizens first. The Government's approach of badly planned, short-term, unfair cuts and arbitrary suspension of key investment makes efficient savings impossible and ensures that the cuts will fall on front-line services and their users, not on the back office.

In government, we recognised-this was the point that my hon. Friend Alison Seabeck made-that the only way to make the best use of local public service spending was to look at it as a whole. We need to look at all the money spent on children, older people, offenders and drug and alcohol problems as a whole. Rather than worrying at the outset whether it is police money, health money, school money or council money, we need to look just at how best to use it.

We know that the most expensive children-the ones who are disruptive at school-are often those whose families are of most concern to social services. They cause the most nuisance to local people and the police and they probably have the highest need of adolescent mental health services. So we worked with local government and the Local Government Association to show that we could produce better services much more efficiently if we brought together all the money that is spent on that group. Our Total Place pilot showed that when we do that, we get a better service at lower cost.

The LGA says that government as a whole could save £20 billion over five years. I am cautious about the details behind that figure, but it is significant. That is what councils think they could offer to cut the deficit while protecting front-line services. That should be taken seriously.

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