Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:36 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Naseem Shah Naseem Shah Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 5:36 pm, 24th April 2019

It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend Toby Perkins.

Let me start by highlighting to those who are watching the debate across the nation that we are debating local council funding because it is an Opposition day. The Conservative party has continued to delay, distract and sometimes even destroy any meaningful conversation on Brexit, as a result jeopardising the discussions on other issues that are faced by people across our communities and constituencies. I therefore thank the shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for the leadership he has shown on this matter.

As we have heard, by 2020 local authorities will have faced a reduction in core funding from the Government of nearly £16 billion since 2010. That means that councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 the Government used to provide for spending on local services. In Bradford over the past 10 years, we have seen huge cuts to our local council funding. In 2010, we received more than £500 million. In 2019, we received just under £400 million. On average, that is a loss of £750 per household across the city of Bradford.

Conservative Members may want to turn the debate into a conversation about spending formulas, but the reality on the ground is clear. We do not need statistics to tell us about the growing levels of deprivation in our constituencies. The stark reality can be seen in the lack of properly funded services, the non-existent youth services, the reduction in bobbies on the beat, the oversized classes and overcrowded classrooms, and the decline in living standards faced by the poorest in our communities.

I ask the Minister: what do I say to the young people in my constituency? It has one of the youngest populations in Europe, with 30% of Bradfordians being under the age of 20, yet it has among the highest levels of youth unemployment. How do I tell the younger generation that they do not have access to the youth services that were there before because we now have a Tory Government in power? How do I explain to them that because they have a Labour council, the Government disproportionately play politics with their life opportunities?

The facts speak for themselves: Bradford appears in the list of the top five councils to receive the biggest cuts to their total spending power over the past 10 years. Why is it that eight of the 10 councils that have received the largest cuts are under Labour control, while eight of the 10 councils that have received the smallest cuts are under Conservative control? I say today loudly and clearly: this Government have played party politics with Brexit, but we will not sit by silently as they play politics with the lives of people who vote Labour and the lives of our other constituents. The Government should protect all citizens equally, and it is frankly unacceptable that my constituents and many others are being left worse off by this Government. The people of this country are watching, and, with the local elections on their way, they will know which party stands for their best interests.

I was listening to the Minister earlier when he was giving out statistics and saying how the Government had done this and done that. The truth is that they have this April failed for a fifth time to publish their Green Paper on health and social care. How can any council have confidence in this Government when they hide behind the Brexit shambles to avoid dealing with the issues that are pertinent to our communities? What kind of decisions do the Government want our councils to make in 2019 when we do not have enough money? Do they want them to cut social care? Do they want them to cut children’s services? Or do they want them to cut bin collections, which have already dropped down to once a fortnight?

The upcoming fair funding review is a proper stitch-up. It threatens to make the funding situation even worse, as it proposes to remove deprivation as a factor in its core funding calculations. Let me tell the Minister this: removing deprivation as a core issue in the funding formula will be absolutely devastating. She should come to Bradford West; I will show her what deprivation really is. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has already warned that removing deprivation in that way would result in moving resources from the more deprived councils to the less deprived, predominantly Conservative-controlled suburban and rural councils. How is that fair and equal?

These cuts have not hit all councils equally. Analysis from the Commons Library shows that, since 2010, Tory areas have had a far smaller reduction in spending power per household as a percentage and in cash terms. Government policy has led to an increased dependency on council tax as a funding mechanism, leading to a postcode lottery and hitting deprived families hardest. Households in Labour areas pay an average of £351 less in council tax. How can this Government be okay with the deprivation in Bradford West and places like it? We need to elect as many Labour councillors as possible on 2 May to stand up against these unfair Tory cuts. The people of this country are watching, as I have said. They know which party stands for their best interests. If the Conservatives are so confident, let them close their eyes when they look at the polls and call a general election. We on this side of the House are ready to give this country the Government it deserves.