I very much agree, and if I have time, I will come on to say more about that.
This is not just about what I or those in local government are saying about why the Under-Secretary’s comments were—I was going to use the word “misleading”—an example of sophistry. Independent analysis from the University of Cambridge says that there are
“significant inequalities in cuts to council services across the country, with deprived areas in the north of England and London seeing the biggest drops in local authority spending since 2010.”
As councils all point out, that is because—again I quote from the study—
“These local authorities tend to be more reliant on central government, with lower property values and fewer additional funding sources, as well as less ability to generate revenue through taxes.”
It would not be permissible for me to say too much more about the effect of what the Minister said, but the truth is that it was not a proper portrayal of what is taking place, and his analysis of the grant system was plain wrong.
In the time that remains, let me say a few words about the consequences of this situation in the Liverpool city region, starting with Knowsley. The impact for the people in Knowsley, which has been the hardest hit of all local authorities anywhere, is that we have had our grant cut by £100 million since 2010. Children’s social care needs are rising faster than the resources for dealing with them, with a £3 million gap currently projected, and the increases announced last week barely scratch the surface of that gap. The same applies to adult care, for which demand is growing, yet the resources are just not there to meet it.
Since 2010 in the Merseyside police force area, we have lost 1,000 police officers. As the chief constable said, the service is reaching breaking point—it is a chief constable saying that. There has been a 14% rise in crime over the last 12 months. Similarly, 50% of the grant for fire and rescue services has been taken away since 2010. The number of firefighters has fallen from 927 to 580. Fire deaths are up by 10%.
The worst aspect of these cuts in services, as the Minister was unwilling to concede on Tuesday, is that the people who can least bear the brunt of them are among some of the poorest in the country. Frankly, what the Government have done to public services in the Budget is shameful.