The Government regularly publish analysis on the impact of changes in funding on households of different income. Next year’s local government settlement sees a real-terms increase in funding and beyond that there is a range of council tax support schemes to assist those with low incomes.
Up until now, Ealing Council has ring-fenced child and youth services, but seven of its 13 libraries and 11 children’s centres are on a hit list for community management, which many see as the slippery slope to closure. The council says that it has been forced to do that because it only has 36p in every pound that it used to have. Will the Minister help to match up social enterprise buyers with these services, which help so many low-income families? Better still, when will the Government properly fund local authorities, as the age of austerity is meant to be over?
Not to rehash the fact that local government will receive a real-terms increase in funding next year, it did not escape my attention that at Ealing there are non-ring-fenced reserves sitting at the council of more than £100 million.
Having campaigned for it, I am delighted that the Secretary of State has approved a new business rates retention pilot from Northamptonshire that is anticipated to lever in an additional £17 million for local services. What difference does he believe this will make for frontline services in the county?
I am delighted that Northamptonshire will benefit from the new business rate pilot. Of course, that money can be used by the councils, working together to invest in the future prosperity of their communities. Beyond that, it promotes cultural change to ensure that all local areas have a stake in the economic future of their community.
This month, the Scottish Government announced £4 million to provide free sanitary products in council buildings such as libraries and leisure centres. Such measures can make all the difference to low-income families’ monthly budgets. Will the Minister commit to look at what Scotland is doing and to follow their forward-thinking approach?
I welcome the cross-Government work on this issue. As the House knows, a couple of years ago the Government announced the £15 million annual tampon tax fund to support women’s charities. There are no current plans to provide extra money to local authorities, but of course the Government keep that under review.