I welcome the opportunity to respond to this debate and to set the record straight on the Government’s support for local government and the communities that it serves. First, however, let me take this opportunity to express my condolences to the family and friends of Councillor Clarissa Slade—one of the youngest councillors in the country, who died, sadly, earlier this week.
Every day, dedicated councillors and officers in local government deliver vital services on which we all depend: on that much, the shadow Secretary of State and I agree. I have the highest regard for them. They are, quite simply, at the frontline of our democracy and the foundation on which strong, thriving communities are built. That said, these have been challenging times for local government, although it has been notable how impressively many councils have stepped up to make hard-earned taxpayers’ money go much further—not just protecting services, but often improving them. The fact that satisfaction levels among residents have remained broadly steady is testament to that. However, I recognise, of course, that these hard-won gains have been achieved in a very difficult financial climate.