Local Authority Budgets

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3rd June 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nick de Bois Nick de Bois Conservative, Enfield North 2:30 pm, 3rd June 2013

What steps he has taken to help local authorities deliver sensible savings in their budgets.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to take Questions 10 and 22 together. We have published—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Rt Hon John Bercow MP Committee, Chair, Rt Hon John Bercow MP Committee, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Rt Hon John Bercow MP Committee, Chair, Rt Hon John Bercow MP Committee

Order. That grouping was not requested and has not been granted—but leave it to the Chair and we will see how we get on. The hon. Gentleman can start by answering Question 10.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

Of course, and apologies, Mr Speaker.

We have published “50 ways to save”, a practical guide to councils on how they can make the most of their budgets through saving money—making sure the pennies get taken care of, so the pounds do as well. We have also developed the transformational challenge award to encourage councils that are looking innovatively at how they can work together, such as St Edmundsbury borough council, which I visited this morning and is saving almost £1 million a year through shared management with its neighbours.

Photo of Nick de Bois Nick de Bois Conservative, Enfield North

I thank the Minister for his answer. Does he also agree that councils should review their portfolio of literature requiring translation, as in the last three years over £40 million was spent on that in England, and my council spent £1 million?

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Opposition Whip (Commons)

The people of Wirral have had many words to say about the level of cuts to our local authority budget that we have had to face, but “sensible” has not been one of them. May I therefore ask the Minister what conversations he has had with Treasury Ministers about the forthcoming spending review, and what he is going to do to help out areas such as Wirral and the Liverpool city region that took very serious cuts last time?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

We will have the spending review in just a few weeks’ time, of course, but the hon. Lady needs to look at the starting point as well and understand that the amount of money spent per household in Liverpool was among the highest in the country. All authorities, however, should be making sure that they have got the right management cost structures and are spending money on front-line services, not back-office costs.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

In this year’s budget Medway council is using half of its unallocated reserves for a new development fund to support future regeneration. What are the Government doing to encourage local authorities to use their reserves to support local communities?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Authorities that are looking carefully at what to do with their reserves are doing the right thing. It is right that they should keep reasonable reserves, but they should not be at too high a level, as they are there to be used. It is absolutely right that authorities look at using their reserves to invest in their communities, to the benefit of their communities both now and in the future.