Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 22nd February 2017.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party, Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 4:04 pm, 22nd February 2017

My hon. Friend has made a good point. That is all the more reason for continuing to hold the Government to account for their decision to axe revenue support grant in full under the Local Government Finance Bill.

What this settlement also does not address are the huge pressures that councils face as a result of rising homelessness and temporary accommodation costs, as well as rapidly increasing children’s social care costs. Rough-sleeping rates fell to historical lows under Labour; they have more than doubled since 2010. The number of social homes being built is at the lowest level on record. With more than 1 million people on social housing waiting lists, councils’ spending on housing families in temporary accommodation has gone up by 46%. Instead, Ministers are taking money away from councils through the new homes bonus. Ministers sing the praises of the new multi-year settlement as a way to give local government certainty, and then in their very first year make a late switch, leaving many councils with an unplanned gap in their budgets.

No area of England has been spared from cuts to services. The doors have shut on libraries, day centres and care homes. Bus services, leisure centres and youth centres have all closed or had their hours and range of services restricted. Women’s refuges have been axed, funding and contracts for local charities taken away. Advice services have gone. Investment in parks and street cleaning has been sharply reduced. All these services and others, treasured by local communities, or vital lifelines for vulnerable residents, have been cut.

This funding settlement will mean that the people of England are left with worse public services. It will deepen the divide between those parts of the country that are well-off and those that rank highest for deprivation. It is a settlement that will not remotely begin to tackle the social care crisis, and it will hit the pockets of those struggling to balance their budgets particularly hard. And it does not tackle the long-term problems facing councils from an increasing dependence on business rates. England deserves better, and that is why we will be voting against this report.