Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 6:31 pm, 8th March 2017

Absolutely. That is clearly a major problem with the system, and it needs to be addressed. I think my hon. Friend is referring to the Dilnot recommendation that people should pay no more than £72,000 in total for their care. When the Minister with responsibility for social care came to the Select Committee, he said that Dilnot would be implemented, but I am not sure how that fits in with this long-term review. I hope that the Government can explain that better in their Green Paper.

There has been no commitment to a cross-party look at this issue. The Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Wollaston, and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, my hon. Friend Meg Hillier, have requested a cross-party review before the publication of the Green Paper, or at least an element of cross-party scrutiny of its proposals. At some point, we have to look at this issue for the long term, assuming that the Conservatives will not be in office for ever.

I also want to address the issue of business rates. The Government have brought this problem on themselves by extending the period between revaluations from five to seven years. That has made the problem worse, because the difference between what businesses were paying before the revaluation and the new rates is wider as a result of the period being longer. We need a commitment to more frequent revaluations. The Government mentioned that in 2015, but it seems to have fallen off the radar. The Select Committee agreed with the Government at the time, so let us have a commitment to more regular and more frequent revaluations.

Will the Government give an absolute commitment that the extra money that they have brought in to help with the revaluation, which I welcome, will not cost local government a single penny, either next year or thereafter? The Treasury should pay for it all. I also agree with the point made by my hon. Friend Simon Danczuk that we need to know how the extra money that will be given to local government for discretionary reliefs is to be allocated between councils. Will it be allocated on a fair and transparent basis? When will we be given that information? I have said to the Communities and Local Government Secretary that if the Government are looking for a fairer way of conducting valuations for business rates—to ensure that the digital services and online shopping sectors pay more, for example—we in the Select Committee will help with that review. It is also clear that there is something wrong with the proportion of payments being made by shops on the high street and by shops in out-of-town centres, and we need to look at that as well.

In 2010, the Conservative Chancellor at the time said that after five years of austerity, he would have balanced the budget. Seven years later, after an awful lot more austerity than most of us could possibly have imagined, another Conservative Chancellor is saying that there will be five more years of austerity, after which he will still not have balanced the budget. That is an awful lot of pain for my constituents for very little gain, and there is no sign at all that austerity will end while this Government are in power.