Most people who understand local government finance recognise that the budget lines in total net expenditure include huge sums of money that the local authority has almost no control over in its everyday spend. For instance, education services are included in controllable spend, but the local authority has no freedom or flexibility at all to direct where that money goes. Since the disbanding of primary care trusts, the public health transferred spend has been included as part of core spending power for local government, but there are new pressures and responsibilities that councils are expected to deliver on. The Government have tried to offset cuts to basic neighbourhood services and the lack of funding in children’s services and adult social care through the smoke and mirrors in their calculations.
Let us see what this means in practice. Across England, since 2010, there has been a 54% cash reduction—not even a real-terms reduction—in spend on support for public transport routes. These are the neighbourhood services that our communities rely on. Tory MPs who will not support this Opposition day motion should think about the community bus services in rural areas that have been cut because the money simply is not in the system to provide those routes. Recreation and sport, essential for a healthy and thriving population, have had a 44% cash reduction; open spaces have had a 23% reduction; and trading standards, which provide essential community security, have had a 34% reduction.
In the last reshuffle, the Tories were like rats fleeing the sinking ship, but who would guess that rats are being protected because pest control has been cut by 49%? Only rats are safe under a Tory Government, it seems—that is, if they are not in one of the areas that has had to hike up the charges. In areas of deprivation, low-income families who cannot afford to pay the charges to keep away vermin are absolutely excluded from living in a safe and clean environment.