Local Government Funding

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:38 pm on 28th March 2018.

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Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses) 4:38 pm, 28th March 2018

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I would like to add my support to the comments made by my hon. Friend Andrew Gwynne and many other Opposition Members. I would also like to steer the debate gently back to reality and away from the comments of Steve Double, who somewhat contradicted himself by talking about the need for more spending and less spending at the same time.

As we have heard, grants from central Government to local councils have been cut by nearly 50% since 2010, and there has been a 28% real-terms reduction in local authorities’ spending power. In my constituency, Government funding has been cut by nearly £58 million. In 2010, the council was relatively well supported by central Government, but after 2020 it is looking forward to a future with no central Government grant whatever. I am sure all Members are concerned about the fact that the Government have no long-term funding plan for local authorities. There is absolutely no clarity about how local government will be funded when the four-year deal runs out in March 2020, just two years from now.

Let me return to the impact of the cuts on my constituents in both Reading and Woodley. While Government funding has fallen, the cost of providing services has risen and continues to rise. Reading Borough Council has a strong track record of maintaining necessary services for residents. Unlike neighbouring Conservative-run West Berkshire council, it has kept all its libraries open. It has maintained award-winning parks and a council-owned theatre, as well as a wide range of the vital frontline services that ensure—as other Members have pointed out—that vulnerable children, adults and families are protected. However, like many councils throughout the country which have a statutory duty to provide adult and children's social care, Reading is forced to make cuts to other services just to balance the books.

A recent National Audit Office report on the sustainability of local authorities found that, nationally, the knock-on effect of such cuts is a reduction in spending on other hugely important services on which we all rely, such as planning and development, highways and transport, and housing. Housing is a vital service in Reading, as it is in many other English towns. Local people rely on and expect councils to be able to provide a wide range of high-quality public services, including services for the elderly and for children, and care for vulnerable adults.