Local Authority Funding

Housing, Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons on 11th January 2021.

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Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

What plans the Government have to increase funding for local authorities in 2021.

Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield

What plans the Government have to increase funding for local authorities in 2021.

Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

We are increasing funding for councils in 2021-22. Through the local government finance settlement, we are making an extra £2.2 billion available to councils, with an average cash increase of 4.5%—a real-terms increase. We have also announced £3 billion of covid-19 support for next year, taking our total direct support for local government in responding to the pandemic to more than £10 billion.

Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

I am grateful to the Minister for the announcement of the extra cash, particularly the covid cash, in these difficult times. He will know from our many meetings in the year since I was elected about my concern on fairer funding for Leicestershire. If Leicestershire were funded at the same level as London, it would receive an extra £374 per resident. Will he update me on the formula that underpins the structure and whether there will be a review? Is this likely to change? If so, when?

Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and the way in which he has consistently and constructively raised this issue with me and Ministers in our Department. Leicestershire will see an increase of 5.5% in its core spending power next year and receive more than £11.5 million to deal with covid pressures. The Government certainly agree that we need an updated and fairer method for distributing funds within local government. I hope he understands that this year we have had to focus on supporting councils through the pandemic, but once this is over we will revisit our shared priority of funding reform. In the meantime, we have substantially increased the rural services delivery grant to £85 million, its highest level ever, which will support the delivery of services in places such as Leicestershire. I am, of course, happy to continue meeting him in the weeks ahead.

Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield

May I thank the Minister for his covid cash for councils? Will he confirm that the Government will ensure that councils have the financial support they need to respond to covid-19 and support their local communities? In places such as Bucks, particularly, our council is doing a fantastic job but there is a lot of concern about whether it will have the financial support to carry on throughout the pandemic and make sure that care is taken of all the residents.

Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She is right to say that councils have done an incredible job in responding to the pandemic. We have provided an unprecedented package of covid-related support for councils, which is now worth £10 billion over this year and next year. It includes £1 billion of unring-fenced funding, as well as support with lost income from tax, sales, fees and charges. Buckinghamshire will benefit from more than £54 million of covid support this year and £11 million for next year. Councils are the unsung heroes of the response to this pandemic and we are standing squarely behind them.

Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

May I take this opportunity to congratulate Christina McAnea on being elected the general secretary of Unison? It is Britain’s biggest trade union and of course has many members who work in local government.

Let me turn to the Minister. How is it fair to force councils to choose between hiking up council tax for hard-working families during the worst recession in 300 years, or cutting social care for older parents and grandparents during an unprecedented global health pandemic?

Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

It is hard to take lectures from the Labour party about raising council tax when Labour doubled council tax while in office and has trebled council tax in Wales. If the hon. Gentleman wants to speak about raising council tax, he should start by speaking to the Mayor of London, who is proposing a 9.5% increase in council tax for next year. We are ensuring that local government has the resources it needs to emerge stronger from the pandemic. That is why we are putting in an extra £2.2 billion next year. We are also giving councils the flexibility to defer any increases in council tax next year if they believe that is right for their community. If the Opposition Front-Bench team looked at the detail of what we are proposing, they would see that we have provided £670 million to help councils to support people who are least able to pay council tax. There is of course one council that will definitely be raising council tax next year, and that is Croydon, because of its completely disastrous management of its finances.