Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Part of Department for Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education) 4:33 pm, 2nd July 2019

As I said at the beginning of the debate, we have seen a rise in homelessness. It has been a particular focus of mine on the Public Accounts Committee, and the hon. Gentleman might be aware of my campaign to scrap the Vagrancy Act 1824. We need to make sure that the fact that we are a compassionate nation is reflected in all parts of policy. I could not agree with his point more. As he rightly pointed out, there are many things that I have not touched on, but I am sure other Members will. This has just been a quick canter around the finances in the estimates.

I hope that the Public Accounts Committee’s reports on local government spending and sustainability are bedside reading for all Ministers, because they make recommendations that I sincerely hope Ministers will take seriously. When the Minister responds to the debate, please can we have answers on the following? First, where is the spending review? How on earth can we expect councils to plan for the medium and long term when they do not even know where next year’s money is going to come from? Secondly, where is the fairer funding review? The Government have moved the burden of taxation from central Government to local government, but the underlying inequity in the system still exists. Thirdly, linked to that, where is the business rates review? As was alluded to earlier, local economies are suffering because of a lack of joined-up thinking. Finally, a refrain that I hope and am sure others will continue: where is the social care Green Paper?

We need all four together before we can achieve genuine value for money in what local councils deliver. Anything else is a false economy. All of us see the knock-on effects of these Whitehall spending decisions in our postbags. We also see the desperation of people who come to us because they feel that their local councils have failed them. However, half the time, it is not local councils that have failed them; it is central Government. Local government is vital. It is the coalface—it is where real policy meets real people. I hope that today’s debate will be a clarion call. Local government may not always be sexy, but it is certainly significant. I thank all colleagues for being here and the Backbench Business Committee for enabling us to have today’s debate.