My hon. Friend makes a really important point. I will come to some of those issues later, but her point is very well made, because we have not only seen the hollowing out of our local services. We have also seen the impact of that on local government as a whole.
I know that is an inconvenient truth for Ministers, and I am sure that when the Secretary of State responds, with his pre-prepared speech, he will say that I am making overtly political points. That seems to be his stock answer. He seems to forget that it is the job of the Opposition to point out the Government’s failings, of which there are many in local government policy. However, it is not just the Labour party saying this; it is the National Audit Office. Surely the Government recognise the National Audit Office as a reputable organisation that knows what it is talking about. The NAO has told us what the Government’s policies mean. They mean that one in 10 councils with social care obligations will have exhausted their reserves within the next three years. They mean that the Government’s short-term fixes are not working and that local government still has no idea how its finances will work after 2020. It is about the cost of negligence being paid for by communities across the country. Vital services are cut, and because the Government shift the blame on to local councils, giving them so-called flexibility but then criticising them when they use it, council tax bills are increasing.
Planning and development, the National Audit Office has shown, has been cut by 52.8%. If we are to meet the Government’s ambitious targets for new homes, who will be the planners of the future? Who will identify the land to be built on? Who will process the planning applications? Who will be the enforcement officers to ensure that the homes and other buildings are built in accordance with the plans?
Funding for transport has been cut by 37.1%. These are our bus routes. These are the vital links between our communities. These are our roads, our pavements, our cycleways. I note that Conservative Members are now silent about that.