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Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:41 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall 2:41 pm, 5th February 2020

I completely agree, and that is the story of every borough and every area in the country.

My own local authority, Ealing Council—where I served as a councillor for more than 25 years—now has only 34p for every pound that it could spend in 2010. Austerity and government cuts mean that less money goes to those who need it, particularly vulnerable children and adults who rely on social care services. Mental health and child safeguarding services have all been put at risk by the Government’s plans. Ealing is the third most populous and fastest-growing London borough, yet it has no maternity unit. My hon. Friend James Murray raised the parlous state of GP surgery provision in our borough. With an ageing population and a homelessness crisis in London, demand for services is set to soar beyond sustainable levels.

Funding for youth clubs and youth workers has also been slashed. The link between cuts in youth spending and the knife crime epidemic has been made clear by the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime. Youth clubs in the heart of my constituency that once welcomed young people are now shuttered. Young people need safe spaces and positive role models to prevent them from sliding into a cycle of criminality and poverty that will follow them throughout their lives. Far from saving money, local government spending cuts have driven the costs of policing and welfare ever higher and have proved to be a false economy, not just in terms of the social cost but as an added drain on the public purse. They have made our streets less safe and have put our young people at risk, and it is incumbent on the Government to do more to make our streets safer. However, it is not just our young people whom this Tory Government are hurting; it is also the elderly and vulnerable, who rely on strong social care and public services to live independent, dignified, full lives.

Throughout his time as London Mayor, the Prime Minister supported a Government who oversaw swingeing cuts in the London boroughs that he was supposed to stand up for. More recently, when he first took office as Prime Minister, he promised that he would fix the social care crisis once and for all. That undoubtedly lofty aim cannot be reconciled with the reality of this paltry local government finance settlement. London is home to some of the most deprived areas in the country, and Tory cuts have only made it worse as successive Conservative politicians have pursued frivolities such as the Garden Bridge.

Local government is the only part of government that most people experience. It means their everyday life: bin collections, potholes, schools, and green spaces. After a decade of neglect and years of undue pressure to make savings, this Tory Government have pushed local government to the brink. The funding settlement favours Tory shires, and takes from the most in need. Our society needs investment to get rid of the inequalities that are so rife in this country. The Government must act, and offer more money for our public services, more money for our young people, more money for social care, and more hope for those who are still faltering under a decade of austerity. That is why I will vote for the motion tonight.