Department of Health and Social Care and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Part of Ministry of Justice – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 2nd July 2018.

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Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil 9:06 pm, 2nd July 2018

The hon. Lady makes a good point. It is about trying to understand when the effects will show up. Often what we have to do in the meantime is to run two parallel systems, in order to get one up and running, and that can be challenging. I welcome the extra money for healthcare but, as I said on Wednesday, we really should not allow it to crowd out other types of spending, particularly local government spending, which we have heard about in relation to social care.

In Somerset, the Conservative county council has undertaken nine years of efficiency savings. It has cut a lot of money out of its budget, but we are getting to the point where further cuts will make a significant difference to people’s lives and the provision of services. The Liberal Democrats left the county with nearly £400 million of debt. The repayments are £100,000 a day, which is really disappointing because we would much rather spend that money on services for the public. The county really needs about another £20 million. Ministers should look at whether the virements in the estimates are enough. I would like the amount in paragraph (2)(c) to be increased by £20 million to fund the very serious gap the county will otherwise have to make up through serious cuts to real people’s services.

It is worth highlighting the plight of children’s social care. The county has made great strides to deal with issues and modernise the service—it has spent a lot of money doing so—and that is an ambition we should all espouse. The difference between children’s social care and adult social care is essentially that adult social care gets cross-subsidised by private clients, as I said, and to some extent by its integration with the healthcare system. What does not really happen in children’s social care is the same level of integration or thought about how the education service integrates with it. In Somerset, we have very high transport costs for children who wish to be educated in Somerset but are placed outside it, for example in Bournemouth. That is something that we need to address.

The reality is that overall Somerset needs more funding. It needs fairer funding, because it is still massively underfunded relative to urban and other areas. On how to pay for that, we have heard good points about why we should not automatically look to tax rises. Public spending has come in under estimate, so there is scope at the moment for a bit of extra deficit funding. Given the fiscal and monetary tightening around the rest of the world that is taking some of the heat out of western economies, I think that would not be frowned upon. Local government funding in Somerset would be a very worthy recipient of such flexibility.