My right hon. Friend, who has been a doughty champion of his constituency for many years, hits on exactly the point that we are trying to make: unless the distribution of the central and local share is based on a number of factors, inequality will be built into the system—indeed, it is built in already because of the starting point. We do not believe that this approach is good enough. The future of communities and of the services available, particularly to the poorest people in this country, cannot simply be left to chance. If the Government believe in fairness and really believe that they would take into account the factors we mention in any case in determining central and local shares, I cannot see why they would have a problem in accepting our amendment. After all, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister told us during their now forgotten love-in back in May 2010, before the romance had gone and they started squabbling, that they
“will ensure that fairness is at the heart of…decisions so that all those most in need are protected.”
That is all we are asking for in this amendment and the others that follow it.
Unfortunately, the Bill does not provide that fairness. If it goes through as drafted, service provision will, as my right hon. Friend John Healey said, increasingly be based on the ability to raise local business rates and council tax. As council tax increases will often be subject to a referendum, most of the demand will be put on local business rates.