Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough 6:10 pm, 7th February 2018

It is a great pleasure to follow Alex Norris, who made a passionate case for his area and touched on the issue of fairer funding. He is absolutely right that a fairer funding review has to be done after a period of time. I can remember making that argument to Labour Governments. The problem is that when a fairer funding review is done people then say, “Gosh, that area needs more money, but we’ve got to cap somewhere else” and Governments are not very keen on cutting elsewhere. So while I think the fairer funding formula is essential, and it is clear that county areas such as Northamptonshire should benefit, it is not the answer to all evils.

One clear issue in this debate—Members on both sides of the House have mentioned it—is adult social care. It strikes me that there is no Tory solution to adult social care, and there is no Labour or Liberal Democrat solution either. We need to work together to find a solution to a broken system. We need to do it now, way before the next general election when we start playing party politics again.

You would expect me, Mr Speaker, to talk primarily about Northamptonshire County Council, because by definition it is now the worst council in the country, having effectively said that it has run out of money. It would be very easy for me to get up and say it is all down to the Government not giving the county council the right amount of money, but that is entirely not the case. Other county councils have managed their affairs better—much better. The problem with Northamptonshire County Council is its governance over a number of years. I have to say that it has been the most difficult organisation to deal with. It does not respond to communications—to be honest, it would be easier to get through to God.

All seven Northamptonshire MPs have issued a statement saying that we have lost confidence in the leadership of the county council. The Secretary of State and the previous Secretary of State have known our concerns. I am very grateful for all the effort the Secretary of State has put into tackling this problem and putting in an inspector at the county council earlier this year. I hope that the inspector can report as soon as possible. It is clear that the solution is Lords Commissioners. The county council cannot resolve its own affairs.

How did we get to this mess? It seems to me to be partly due to the cabinet system of government. We have had the same local politicians in the cabinet year after year. They just recycle the jobs. The vast bulk of county councillors in Northamptonshire, of whatever political persuasion, are very, very good, but the fact that they do not get any information from the cabinet has not allowed them scrutinise the mess that has been going on. In fact, we could say that a clique ran the county council, and that is where it failed.