Another important issue is, of course, children’s social care. Although some £250 million of funding has been dedicated to that sector since 2014 to help with innovation and to deliver better quality services, the recent local government financial settlement, which will lead to a real-terms increase over the next two years, will also help. None the less, I do recognise that there are longer-term challenges, and that is something that my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary is taking very seriously.
Undoubtedly, these have been very challenging times for local government, but we know what Labour’s response to that would be: it would be throwing more money at the challenge without a second thought. Never mind the working people who actually foot the bill for raising that extra money through more and more taxes. Instead, we ask councils to raise their game as we strive to rebuild the economy after the disaster that we inherited in 2010, and we back those councils not just with funding, but with greater freedom, flexibility and certainty so that they can harness their invaluable local knowledge and transform services. Many have done just this—driving efficiencies and innovating while continuing to provide a world-class service, and delivering lower taxes in real terms since 2010. Services have not just been protected; in many cases they are improving. Communities are being empowered through billions of pounds of local growth funding and devolution deals. These councils are doing an excellent job, and the people they serve deserve no less.