The hon. Lady gives me the opportunity to highlight Labour’s tax plans once again. She says that Labour is not considering a land value tax, but perhaps she is not aware of what Councillor Sharon Taylor of the Local Government Association Labour group said just a few days ago, on
“the ability to look at local taxes such as land value tax” and a tourism tax. Labour’s plans are all about tax, tax, tax. That is the only thing it knows.
There is no doubt that local authorities are stepping up to the challenges that they face and demonstrating real ambition and creativity to drive efficiencies at the same time as protecting frontline services. Let me share a few examples with the House. Suffolk County Council has used advanced technology to understand what is behind the service pressures generated by troubled families. Since that work began, the council has saved some £10 million and increased the capacity of its system to focus on priority cases. South Cambridgeshire has set up its own housing company to provide innovative solutions to meet local housing need. The company will expand its portfolio of properties, investing approximately £100 million over the next five years. This will generate an additional £600,000 per annum for the council.
Many councils have taken a more radical approach to restructuring to do better for their communities. The benefits can be enormous when local areas look beyond lines on a map and party differences and find new ways to work together. That is what Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils have done to create a new district council: East Suffolk. That culmination of years of collaboration is expected to yield annual savings of more than £2 million. There are also mergers of Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury to form West Suffolk, which is estimated to generate a saving of over £500,000 each year, and of West Somerset and Taunton Deane to form Somerset West and Taunton, which will lead to transformational change and annual savings of some £3 million.