Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 5:00 pm, 24th April 2019

First, I would like to pay tribute to the fabulous work of the council staff in my area and the local councillors of the Conservative party, independents and others, who work so hard to deliver excellent services for our community.

My right hon. Friend Mr Dunne made the point that the previous Labour Government moved funding from shire constituencies to metropolitan areas. As a resident of both South Kesteven and Westminster, I thought it would be useful to illustrate the difference between the two. In South Kesteven District Council area, the average weekly gross wage is £453.20, and the council tax for a band D property is £1,589.38 a year. In Westminster, where I am during the week, the average weekly wage is £786.10, and band D council tax is £710.50. This means that the average person in Westminster is earning more than £300 a week more but pays £879 less in council tax for their local services.

Despite the challenges to funding and the fact that if Lincolnshire County Council was funded the same per capita as the average council in the country, it would receive £116 million more than its current budget of roughly £500 million, it has been able to do some very innovative things with its funding. We have discussed the environment a lot this week. South Kesteven District Council introduced “The Big Clean” initiative last year, which visits each village of the district to remove fly-tipping, clean signs, remove undergrowth and do other things suggested by the local residents to improve the environment in which people live and ensure that they can take pride in their surroundings.

Gravity Fields festival, which has been running since 2012, is an innovation of our local council. This goes beyond delivering the basic services; this is the best in the country. It is a festival of art and science inspired by Sir Isaac Newton, who was from Grantham and went to the local school. The festival not only provides the people of Grantham with information on art and science and very interesting experiences, but it raises £1 million for the local area through visitors staying there and spending their money on food and drink and the like. This is a Conservative council doing its best to deliver really innovative stuff, despite having a stretched budget.

North Kesteven District Council, which covers the other part of my constituency, is similar. It has looked carefully at the challenge of being good to the environment while providing the social housing that is required. It has won awards for building curved homes and passive houses, delivering the next generation of social housing in an environmentally sustainable way. It is not only providing basic services but going above and beyond, to provide excellent services. Lincolnshire County Council receives lower than the average per capita funding, as I have said, but it is still providing our children and young people with what Ofsted describes as “strong and effective” services for those with special educational needs and disabilities.

The ageing population presents one of our nation’s most profound challenges. It raises critical questions about how, as a society, we enable all adults to live well in later life and how we deliver sustainable public services to support them to do so. There will be 2 million more people aged over 75 in the next 10 years, and many of those will be managing long-term conditions. It is vital to make sure that local councils are supported to provide for elderly citizens so that they can age with dignity. That is why I am glad this Conservative Government have invested in social care, with a 23% increase in the improved better care fund to £1.8 billion, an additional £410 million through the social care support grant and £10 billion for adult social care being provided to councils by 2020.

I really welcome the additional resources that have been provided for social care by this Government, but as a Member representing a rural constituency it is important for me to emphasise that an extra £1 for social care in London will go further than an extra £1 in Lincolnshire. Rural areas face higher costs for the delivery of public services than urban areas. [Interruption.] Andrew Gwynne says from a sedentary position, “That’s not true”, but if one is visiting an elderly person in their home and then travelling on to visit the next elderly person in their home, there is of course a gap.