Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 3:38 pm, 24th April 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Bradshaw. He spoke about a blueprint; I have read that report and I remain unconvinced that it absolutely nails down who would pay and how much, which is of course the toughest part of these decisions. None the less, it is a very good proposal and I respect that.

Like the Labour Front-Bench spokesman, Andrew Gwynne, the right hon. Gentleman referred to cuts in local government funding since 2010. I hate to labour the point—it is a political point—but we cannot avoid asking ourselves why those cuts were necessary. The motion mentions sustainability, as does the Independent Group’s amendment, or what we might call the TIG amendment. But the cause of our problem was unsustainability in the public finances and the economy, with a huge growth in all kinds of borrowing, including private borrowing, mortgage borrowing and public borrowing prior to the crash, and public spending commitments based on unsustainable tax income from, for example, city bonuses. That was never going to be sustained. It was always going to end in a big crash, and—guess what?—it would always fall to us to step in and fix the problem.

Labour MPs may deny that. I asked the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish whether Labour’s 2010 manifesto protected local government. As he did not answer, let me remind the House what the manifesto said:

“Labour believes we should protect frontline spending on childcare, schools, the NHS and policing, and reform our public services to put people in control.”

Note the absence of local government funding. It goes on to say—this is the key line:

“We recognise that investing more in priority areas will mean cutting back in others.”

In other words, if an area of spending was not protected, it would get a right old shellacking, which is what happened under us. We did the same thing. We had priority Departments that we protected, but at a time when the deficit is very high, if we protect some Departments—which is perfectly justified, as we did with the NHS—others will take a disproportionate hit. That would have happened under Labour. I honestly do not say that for the purpose of political point scoring. It is to underline the reality that there is no parallel universe where there would not have been a significant hit to the grant given from central Government to local authorities after 2010.