Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 2:16 pm, 24th April 2019

I look forward to engaging with the hon. Gentleman and the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on issues relating to the devolution of business rates and so many other things. I profoundly believe in the merits and benefits of decisions being taken more locally and of local government having a sustainable position.

I am conscious of the number of Members who want to participate in this debate, so I will now make some progress.

Coming back to social care, £650 million out of the more than £1 billion of extra funding committed to councils at last year’s Budget will be going towards adult and children’s social care in 2019-20. Of that, £240 million has been allocated to ease pressures on the NHS, which comes on top of the £240 million announced in October to address winter pressures. The remaining £410 million can be spent on either adult or children’s social care where necessary to take the pressure off the NHS, meeting the request from local authorities for greater flexibility. Taken with the adult social care precept and the improved better care fund, the Government will have given councils access to £10 billion of dedicated funding, which can be used for adult social care in the three-year period from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

When it comes to protecting our children, we are investing £84 million over the next five years to expand three of our most successful children’s social care innovation programme projects. The projects will keep more children at home safely in up to 20 local authorities, but in the long run our work will ensure that our health and care systems are better integrated. That will be our most powerful tool in ensuring we have a sustainable approach in the years to come.

Returning to troubled families, which Teresa Pearce rightly highlighted, I believe that our programme is helping local authorities to support families with complex needs and to improve outcomes for individuals. The programme has been a catalyst for local services, transforming how they work together, making them more integrated and cost-efficient, and reducing dependency and demand on expensive services. The results speak for themselves. The latest national programme evaluation shows that, when compared with a similar group, targeted intervention saw the number of children going into care down by a third, the number of adults going to prison down by a quarter, juveniles in custody down by a third, and 10% fewer people claiming jobseeker’s allowance. While I recognise that there is more to do, the results are a tribute to the tireless efforts of family workers, local authorities and their many partners in our public services and the voluntary sector. This is about so much more than the financial boost that someone can get from a regular wage. It is also about the pride and the dignity that comes with someone being able to take control of their own life.

The future of this country is not about an ever-growing collection of handouts and entitlements, but about growing prosperity and independence, and that equally applies to local government. This Government are working to build a more confident, self-sufficient and reinvigorated local government. With the end of the current multi-year deal in sight, we clearly need to take a longer view of how we fund councils as we move to a stronger, sustainable and smarter system of local government. This year’s preparations for increased business rate retention, a new approach to distributing funding between local authorities, and the upcoming spending review will also be pivotal. Important work is also under way with authorities and the wider sector to better understand service costs pressures.

For years, councils have asked us for more control over the money raised, and we are giving it to them through our plans to increase business rate retention to 75%. In the process, we will provide local authorities with powerful incentives to grow, and authorities estimate that they will retain around £2.5 billion in business rate growth in 2019-20 under the current system—a significant revenue stream on top of the core settlement funding. In addition to more control, councils want and need to see a clearer link between the allocation of resources and local circumstances, and our new fairer funding formula will ensure a more transparent link between local needs and resources and the funding that councils get.

I pay tribute to the leadership and creativity of our councils, which deliver high-quality services for their residents and efficiencies for the taxpayer. We are determined to give them the freedoms and flexibilities they need so that local government can continue to flourish and deliver vital services to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. As voters go to the polls at the local elections, this Conservative Government are providing a real-terms increase in spending power for local government and giving councils the freedoms to deliver for their local communities, and hard-working Conservative councillors are providing value for money for hard-working families and the quality services that their residents deserve.