We have not heard a great deal today. We expected, perhaps, a rabbit to be pulled out of a hat. Word had it that the Prime Minister had a few quid to give out, but we have not seen much of that today. It could have been used in a morally just way: it could have been sent to the areas that have suffered the biggest cuts although they also suffer the most significant deprivation. Those areas have been targeted by the Government, as has been set out today in the many speeches made by Labour Members in particular.
My hon. Friend Mr Betts said that people now questioned why they were paying council tax at all, given that the neighbourhood services that they received were being reduced. My hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Riverside (Dame Louise Ellman), for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) and for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) made the same points about the human cost of removing vital public services. My right hon. Friend Mr Jones, my hon. Friend Lyn Brown and my right hon. Friend Liam Byrne outlined the very real community impact of austerity and the Government’s targeting of our communities. Through to my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar (Anna Turley) and for High Peak (Ruth George), we heard story after story of the human and community cost of austerity.
What shift did we get from the Government? Absolutely none. Why? This has not happened by accident, and the Government will not suddenly wake up and realise that they have made a horrible mistake. The policy has been deliberate and targeted from day one. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said:
“In England, cuts have been much larger for poorer, more grant-dependent councils than their richer neighbours.”
“This pattern arose directly from the way central Government allocated grants.”
That was deliberate and targeted and it has not stopped today. Despite our calls and our outlining the real human cost, the policy continues.