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Local Government Responsibilities: Public Services

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:00 pm, 18th March 2020

May I first congratulate and thank hon. Members across the House for their valuable and important contributions to the debate? They have been largely co-operative and collaborative at a time of extraordinary emergency for our country.

I am sorry that I was not here at the beginning of the debate to hear the opening remarks of Barbara Keeley and the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall); like Jim McMahon, I was in a Westminster Hall debate discussing the Greater Manchester spatial framework. It is a great pleasure to have the chance to close the debate.

I join my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in reiterating the Government’s unwavering support for local authorities across the country in responding to the covid-19 emergency. Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I pay particular tribute to frontline staff and other council officers for their tireless efforts in reassuring residents, protecting the elderly and most vulnerable, and helping keep the public safe. Let me assure the House that the Government will continue to work hand in hand with local partners, including councils and local resilience forums, to assist in this vital work and ensure that communities receive the support and help they need during this unprecedented and challenging time.

Hon. Members across the House described powerfully the incredible work that their local communities and local public services are doing. Let me say, on behalf of the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, how grateful we are for all the tireless work that people are already doing. I am particularly conscious of the vital contribution of local voluntary organisations, and I pay particular tribute to them, as other Members did. I was struck by what my hon. Friend Ben Everitt had to say about the support the local volunteer organisation The Bus Shelter is providing.

Our responsibility in Government is to knit that work together into a national programme to ensure that all communities and all vulnerable people, wherever they may be, have access to the right support at the right time, and we will do that. We will take every step necessary to support local communities, local authorities, all public services and the myriad volunteers who are coming forward to help, as my hon. Friends the Members for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) and for Devizes (Danny Kruger) made clear.

We know councils need assurance from the Government that they will have the funding they need to play their crucial role in the coronavirus response, especially in providing social care services to those in greatest need, as a number of Members on both sides of the House have said. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made clear, we will do whatever it takes—whatever it takes—to respond effectively. That includes making sure public services, including vital council services, have the money they need to respond. The Chancellor announced last week that £5 billion has been made available for the NHS, and more money has been made available for other public services, such as the half a million pounds made available to local authorities, with more to come if necessary.

We are urgently agreeing a funding package for councils, and we will make further announcements as soon as possible.