I certainly can. My right hon. Friend is fortunate to have a good Conservative council and it will benefit from the largest ever rural services grant in the settlement, which will give more money to help deliver the sorts of services that his constituents will rely on in a very rural part of the country.
The shadow Communities Secretary as leader of Lambeth Council hiked council tax by more than £100, including a 5% rise at the height of the unemployment crisis presided over by the last Labour Government. Yet today he believes that councils should not even have limited flexibility to do the same. Labour leaders in local government do not want limited flexibility to increase council taxes; they want to abolish the right of local people to veto excessive tax increases altogether, so that they can increase taxes by as much as they want. We all know where that leads for Labour councils: while council tax has fallen under the Conservatives in real terms since 2010, the last Labour Government presided over a doubling of council tax and, in Labour-run Wales, it is trebling.
Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition should pick up the phone, check in with his own local leadership from time to time and get their ducks in a row before opposing the very same flexibility that their councils are the greatest advocates of. From Leeds to Telford to the Wirral to Sefton, the A to Z of Labour local councils have demanded that we allow them to increase council tax “without limit”. They describe in their responses to the local government settlement that keeping their tax-raising instincts in check is frustrating, “an imposition”—not an imposition on tax payers, I hasten to add; they barely get a look-in. It is all there in black and white in the Labour councils’ responses to the local government settlement.