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Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Co-National Campaign Coordinator, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 12:40 pm, 5th February 2020

I agree with my hon. Friend, who has been a champion for not only local government across the country, but that great city of Birmingham, fighting the devastation that has befallen that great city. On the LGA’s own statistics, a further £48 million in adult social care funding could be removed from Birmingham to add to the devastation that has already hit his city. That is why the fair funding review is so unfair and wrong.

According to the King’s Fund—so this is not coming just from the LGIU—by the end of the next decade the number of older people who need adult social care support is predicted to increase to 4.1 million. That is piling even more cost pressures on our local councils, which is why the LGIU also highlights the increase in financial pressures on children’s services, as adult social care is only one part of the very costly equation that is people-based services—the services that councils, by law and by right, have to provide. Mrs Smith, on any street of any town in any shire, thinks that her council tax increases are going towards ever-reducing bin services, and she sees parks not being maintained and libraries closing. That is because she never sees the impact on adult social care and children’s services.

On children’s services, the LGIU argues that councils are no longer able to shield vulnerable children from the worst of the budgetary pressures that councils are facing. More than one in three councils said their inability to protect vulnerable children was their biggest concern. We know that there are unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services. The number of children in care has hit a 10-year high, but without the funding to support that increase in demand.

From 2009 to 2019, the number of section 47 inquiries—that is, where a local authority believes that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm—has increased by 139%. The Local Government Association warns that children’s services alone are facing a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025. It is these pressures on people-based services that are pushing many councils towards the cliff edge, and sticking plasters will no longer suffice. The Minister will no doubt say that he gave £1 billion to be shared by adult social care, children’s services and provision for NHS winter pressures. That is not enough.