Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch 3:59 pm, 24th April 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Ms Rimmer. She gave a very good and comprehensive speech, but I cannot say the same about Andrew Gwynne, the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, who gave an impassioned speech that was no doubt great for Facebook clicks but bore very little resemblance to the reality and substance of the debate today. We have a true cross-party challenge that we need to address, and he conveniently chose to ignore some of the critical points about council funding, as it is distributed across our country.

Many Opposition Members spoke about Birmingham, a city that I know well. It is a great city; I have lived and worked there for many years. They were decrying the Government for their seeming neglect of spending in Birmingham. The blame for the problems in Birmingham lie firmly at the Labour administration’s door. Shall we just look at the facts? In my constituency in Worcestershire, the core spending power per dwelling is £1,356, and in Birmingham, it is £2,022—nearly 50% more. Yes, this reflects the need, but we have need in my area of Redditch as well. What is that administration doing with the money? It is squandering the money on consultants and inefficient services, when it cannot even collect the rubbish on the streets. There is rubbish piling up. It is breaking its promises to the electorate. It cannot collect the bins. The strikes have cost it £12 million, which could have funded the council tax rise that it has just inflicted on its residents.

However, that is enough about Birmingham and enough about that. I want to focus on this very important issue, on which I think there is more consensus than there is political point-scoring. There is no doubt that adult social care is an absolutely critical issue. As a Member of Parliament, I hear from people who have tragic stories and face very difficult choices. I am also the daughter of a dementia sufferer, who lives on her own in Cumbria. I have seen at first hand the difficulties and challenges of navigating the system to support a frail, vulnerable lady in a very isolated rural area. We all have constituents that suffer from dementia and other conditions, so we need to grapple with this issue.

It is right to say that the lack of a social care Green Paper is a missed opportunity. I am delighted to be the co-chair of the all-party group on carers, which is doing some excellent work. Carers, of course, are the unsung heroes. They provide £132 billion-worth of care across the UK. Over the next 10 years, 20 million people will start caring. We know that unpaid carers make a huge contribution in so many ways, so I gently call on the Minister to address that.