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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich 5:13 pm, 14th October 2020

Well, it is.

Many of us in this place who have had dealings with local authorities—as well as lots of our constituents and probably millions of people across the country—would agree that getting everything done by the local authority is by no means a guarantee of success. Just this morning, in news that I am sure was greeted with groans in the Labour Whips Office, it was revealed that Birmingham City Council’s local programme dropped off 25 used swab kits to homes in Selly Oak. Does that mean that local authorities are incapable of delivering? No, of course not. We have problems in the private sector, and that should not bar them from involvement, and we have problems in the public sector too.

Local authority solutions are not a magic bullet. The quality of leadership, management and organisation varies enormously among local authorities. We all know this, and the Opposition know it. At the election, so many bricks in their red wall fell because residents were fed up not just with Labour at national level but with inept, Labour-led local authorities. After decades in power, they were taking people for granted, with leaders and councillors who were not even up to the job of taking away the bins on time, let alone organising a test and trace programme. The national programme inevitably has challenges, but do Labour Members really think that each and every one of the local authorities will deliver on this flawlessly?

Local leaders are political. Sadly, time and again we see Members on the Opposition Benches putting politics first. In the past 24 hours alone, they have said that they support local lockdowns but then did not vote for local lockdowns; that national lockdowns were a disaster, but now they want a national lockdown—and they cannot even make up their minds whether they want a two-week or a three-week lockdown. And they want the country to believe that if they had been in charge, all this would have been going smoothly. That is not accurate. When it came to getting children back to school, the national Labour party was kowtowing to national union leaders and doing what they said, and we all know that the local Labour parties are just as likely to be influenced by the unions. I absolutely recognise that there is work that needs to be done, but I am afraid the idea that if we just flick a switch and give it all to local authorities everything will be fine is complete and utter nonsense.