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Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:13 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (jointly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) 1:13 pm, 5th February 2020

Well, we are having fun.

As I was saying, the hon. Member for St Helens North approached me outside the Division Lobby, fizzing with excitement. He is embedded on his town board, and is putting aside political differences to work closely with this Government, challenging us on our towns fund and ensuring that he can deliver real benefits for his community.

It is only because this Government had the determination to deliver the will of the British people and we have now left the European Union that we can seize the opportunities that lie ahead. We will drive devolution, and level up our communities and nations, while at the same time beginning an era of new investment in public services. Back in 2010 we were forced to make some difficult decisions, but we had inherited the highest deficit in the nation’s history and an economy struggling to recover from the worst recession in 70 years. The public purse was overstretched, the overdraft limit had been reached and the credit card was maxed out. In truth, there was no money left and the economy was on the brink. It is exactly because we took those difficult decisions that we can now bring forward our ambitious plans and aims for local government finance for the months and years ahead. I am determined that local government will receive the resources it needs to support its communities, and continue to innovate and deliver cost-effective services for its residents. This year will see a spending review in which we will move forward with a longer-term settlement, providing the sector with the certainty and confidence it needs to properly plan for the future.

As the shadow Secretary of State mentioned, we also plan to review the formula used to distribute money between local authorities in order to ensure that we can use the resources in the most efficient and effective way. I will say more about that later. However, I briefly want to address why the Government brought forward a one-year funding settlement for local government. In advance of leaving the European Union, it was right that we sought rapidly and urgently to bring stability and certainty to our local government sector. This meant carrying out a one-year spending review at record pace, followed by a post-election local government finance settlement, which we published as soon as we could after the election. Building on that settlement, we now have a series of bold and ambitious plans for a local government finance settlement in the financial year 2020-21 that has been devised in close collaboration with colleagues across the local government sector.

Under these proposals, core spending power for local authorities in England will increase from £46.2 billion to £49.1 billion in 2020-21. This equates to a 6.3% increase in cash terms, or a 4.4% increase in real terms—the largest increase for a decade. The shadow Secretary of State spoke at some length about adult social care, and this Government are steadfast in our commitment to protecting the millions of people who rely upon those essential services. That is why we propose to inject an additional £1 billion of new funding into the social care grant, with £150 million used to equalise the distributional impact of the adult social care precept, and continue the £410 million of the previous year’s allocations. Overall, that means that local authorities will have access to £6 billion across adult and children’s social care next year. However, our commitment to boosting social care and investment spans much further than just that one-year settlement, which is why we pledged to maintain the £1 billion of new funding to the social care grant for the duration of this Parliament, enabling local authorities to continue with long-term planning and driving improvements in the essential core services.

It was deeply irresponsible for the shadow Secretary of State to scaremonger about the figures from the LGA. He knows that those figures are at best an estimate and that they are based on old formulas, including the old area cost adjustment, which we are changing. If we thought it worked, we would not be doing the fairer funding review, so he should think on before he scares some of the most vulnerable people in society with stories about cuts and figures that are not based on the true formula.

The shadow Secretary of State claims to be a great champion of local government, so I will give him the opportunity to intervene on me in a moment. I wonder whether he can recall what he was doing on the evening of 10 February 2016—would he like to intervene? He cannot remember. I can remember. I was in the Aye Lobby with my colleagues, voting for the social care precept, enabling local councils to prioritise social care. He was in the No Lobby, voting against more money going to councils to finance social care. That one measure alone has raised an estimated £7 billion for adult social care since it was introduced. Perhaps when he is lecturing Government Members about support for adult social care, he should recall what he was doing when local authorities and the vulnerable in society needed him; he was pursuing narrow, party political lines and voting against the social care precept.