No, I did not mention the figure of £5,000, but I did say that decisions approaching anything like the levels of the £134,000 spent on Parisian-designed sofas would require sign-off-and they would not get that sign-off, either.
We have introduced a Bill to stop council restructuring in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk, which will save the taxpayer £40 million of unnecessary costs. This was a botched restructuring; even the accounting officer at the DCLG had no confidence in it, and issued a letter of direction to the former Secretary of State about its being carried out. There was no reason to spend that £40 million, but the Labour Government did not believe that the country was in a financial mess. They seemed to miss that point entirely.
There is more to come. We will promote locally led joint working, building not just on the Total Place pilots, but on innovations-such as joint chief executives- being championed by many councils. In the Queen's Speech, we announced a localism Bill that will free local government from central control and give voters more power over local government and over the way in which money is spent. As part of this, we will introduce a new general power of competence for local authorities, so that they are free to give local communities exactly what they want.
The public coffers are nearly empty, and the nation's credit card is maxed out. Shadow Ministers are fighting the wars of yesterday, trying to justify why their pet projects were notionally signed off by the Treasury, but ignoring the huge elephant in the room, in the form of a looming public debt of £1.4 trillion. But in these tough times, we are defending the interests of families, pensioners, small firms and the underprivileged. We are empowering councils to put the front line first, and to make the right choices on how best to protect the vulnerable and the needy in our society. We are putting councillors and the people in charge of going through the state books and highlighting waste and inefficiency, rather than relying on unelected and unaccountable quangos and regional structures. There is a difference between this Government and the last one: we trust people. That is something that the centralising, nanny-state, interfering Labour Government never did.
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