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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:25 pm on 24th March 2014.

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Photo of Stephen Mosley Stephen Mosley Conservative, City of Chester 7:25 pm, 24th March 2014

I would hope that the hon. Lady stands up, champions her constituency and goes to employers and investors saying, “Look this is what we have to offer. Come and invest here. Come and create jobs here. Come and employ people here. We want you.” My constituency is great—Chester is great—and I want to sell it the whole time; we have jobs fairs and business fairs, and we get the investment and the jobs— I am proud of that.

But is not just in this place that Conservatives are doing a good job: up and down the country, in town halls and city halls, our councillors are freezing council tax, and in some cases cutting it, while protecting front-line services. My local Conservative-run Cheshire West and Chester council is doing all it can to help my constituents, and it is freezing council tax for the next two years. Over the five years of this Parliament, council tax payers in Chester will have seen just a 1.65% rise in their council tax bill, which of course compares massively favourably with what happened under the previous Government, when council tax bills more than doubled. This means that band D council tax payers in Chester are £131 a year better off. It is this Government who have given my local council the funds to freeze council tax. My council knows that it has to do more than always look to central Government for more money and that the way to improve local services is to make them more efficient. That is why it is now sharing its back-room services with other local authorities. A recent deal with Labour-run Wirral borough council will see council tax payers in West Cheshire and Wirral saving some £69 million. Management costs have been cut by 33%, saving tax payers £3.2 million. At the same time the council is improving local services, as can been seen in its fostering and adoption services. Working with two more Labour councils, Halton and Knowsley, it is sharing expertise, experience and costs to improve the services offered to children. Adoption figures are now the best in the north-west, with the time taken to place children half the national average.

By making local services more efficient, the council is making them more effective as well. It is using the savings to keep taxes low and to invest in our residents and in Chester's future. Work is currently progressing on a new £37.5 million theatre, replacing the old Gateway theatre that was shamefully closed by Labour in 2007. I was therefore delighted to hear the additional support that the Chancellor announced for regional theatre in his Budget on Wednesday. Cheshire West and Chester will be knocking on his door.

I was also delighted to hear about the new £20 million to support our cathedrals in this anniversary year of the start of the first world war. Chester cathedral stands at the heart of our beautiful city. It was recently voted by American readers of USA Today the fifth prettiest city in Europe. The cathedral also hosts memorials, and has a memorial garden, to the soldiers of the Cheshire Regiment, 8,420 of whom died serving our country between 1914 and 1918.

On 5 April, the new tourist attraction Cathedral at Height will open, allowing people to climb to the top of the cathedral tower to see the panoramic views across the city and the inside of the cathedral. The cathedral has massive plans to boost the Chester visitor offering, and it will be keen to explore the opportunities that this new money provides.

As we reflect on the Chancellor’s Budget, let us look at the reality for my constituents. A four-year transformation of our country’s economy has delivered more jobs, better services and a council tax freeze. Every step of the way, Labour has opposed our long-term economic plan that is making all that possible. What a clear choice for the people of Britain. They can have more borrowing, more taxes and more debt from the Labour party, or more pounds in their pockets with the Conservatives. Bring on the election!