Local Government Financing

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 29th June 2010.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Minister for Housing 4:27 pm, 29th June 2010

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The simple truth is that Labour Members still have not understood the depth of the problems that they have got us into. Until they acknowledge that and start to address it themselves with some real plans, and identify where some of the money is coming from, nobody will take seriously their complaining and calling of Opposition day debates about this subject.

We will continue to remove the ring fences from non-school revenue and capital funding. This year, we have de-ring-fenced £1.2 billion, and we intend to go a lot further. This gives councils the extra flexibility they need to concentrate on local priorities and to protect these front-line services. We are also reducing the management burden imposed on local authorities from the centre, cutting down on undemocratic and unaccountable quangos, and putting local government front and centre in meeting local residents' needs. When we took over, there were 27 different quangos relating to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Again, I invite the right hon. Gentleman to come to the Dispatch Box and explain how he was going to hand power back to local people by removing even one of his 27 quangos.

As with every profession, local authorities will need to take some difficult decisions about how to prioritise their spending. Local authorities have already made great strides in achieving efficiencies, but they need to do more. There is still a lot more potential to gain through new practices-for example, shared services, joint working and smarter procurement. Perhaps most important, however, will be radical town hall transformation. We must be clear that councils will need to build in improved productivity as a matter of course. They need to learn from the best commercial practices. Sainsbury's does not go out and tell people that good food costs more when it comes from Sainsbury's, but that it costs less, and public services are going to have to do the same thing. In the public services, in future, we have to get more for less. I know that that is a concept that Labour Members struggle with, but it is the reality of the financial mess that they have left us in.

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