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Local Government Responsibilities: Public Services

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:34 pm, 18th March 2020

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the local resilience forums engage regularly with the local health partnerships—in fact, many health partnerships have a seat on the LRF. I am happy to take a look at his local LRF and discuss the matter with him, to make sure that that conversation is happening. We are working to ensure that LRF preparedness is ready across the country, including with tabletop exercises. We have Andy Battle, a retired deputy chief constable, looking through all the plans, and I am happy to look at the hon. Gentleman’s local plan specifically to make sure there is sufficient engagement with the national health service in his community.

The covid-19 LRF taskforce will also enhance LRFs’ abilities to respond to coronavirus by rapidly assessing preparedness. We are continuing to work closely with local authorities and their partners to prepare for the most intense phase of the crisis, and by helping local businesses and communities to plan, we will be prepared as a nation to meet the challenges we face.

We will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that local government can continue its vital function in the weeks ahead. We are committed to supporting local government to deliver our priorities of social care, providing vital support for vulnerable people and supporting their local economies. Local partners are keeping their plans under constant review and getting close support from this Government to ensure that plans are fully up to date and reflect the relevant scientific advice on coronavirus. For now though, it is clearly right that we focus on ensuring that local authorities can play their essential part in the wider national effort. We have taken decisive action already by providing additional funding to key public services and directly to the most vulnerable. We have acted by lightening the regulatory burden on local authorities. We have acted by reviewing and improving local resilience and economic preparedness efforts. I am, like other hon. Members, aware that we will need to do more in the coming weeks. We stand prepared to do that. I will ensure that I am available to any Member of this House who wants to discuss their local preparedness and to meet their local agencies. Our resilience teams are, of course, engaged with every local area to make sure that we have absolutely up-to-date intelligence in Government, to knit together at the national level.

Our commitment to ensuring that local authorities have the tools they need to respond to coronavirus is unwavering. We will give councils the support they need. We will be able to outline the further steps we intend to take very shortly. In supporting local authorities to deliver the services they need to deliver, we will do whatever it takes.