I will come back to the hon. Gentleman, if he will allow me. I need to draw my remarks to a conclusion, but I will take a few more interventions before I do so.
It is not just the National Audit Office that is making these comments. Back in 2015, the Institute for Fiscal Studies was warning that deprived areas were suffering from the harshest council cuts. The Government called for councils to spend their reserves and sell off their assets. Tory Northamptonshire followed that instruction to a T, and look where it got them.
As local government leaders warned of the coming crisis in adult social care, the Government said
“town halls are hoarding billions in their piggy banks”.
The Municipal Journal said recently, in response to this toxic situation:
“This is a wholly unsustainable position, and has already led to speculation about the long-term futures of four other counties which have used significant cash reserves in recent years: Surrey, Lancashire, Somerset and Norfolk.”
All I can say is that if the Surreys of this world are now struggling and pleading poverty to the Secretary of State, heaven help the Liverpools, the Manchesters, the Birminghams, the Tamesides and the Hulls of this world.