I am not entirely convinced that we are debating quite as revolutionary a change in local government finance as John Healey would have us believe. As he rightly says, there has been periodic centralisation of local government finance in the post-war period; this Bill is a step, but only a relatively small step, in a different direction.
I am concerned that some provisions will not provide the overall transparency that all of us desire for local government finance. The worry, as we all know, is that council leaders across the country who get and understand the system will then work it to the benefit of their own local authorities, while neighbouring authorities with similar sets of needs will not reap the same benefits. I believe that has been the case since time immemorial, and I suspect it is a problem that exists in any political system. However much we try, it is difficult to discount the articulacy of those who understand and work a system. As I say, I am not as convinced or as concerned as the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne. I hope he will forgive me if I focus my comments on issues that have come from the lobbying of one of the two local authorities in my constituency, and in so far as we work here, we all have a vested interest in this authority—Westminster city council.