My constituency is covered by two local authorities: Labour-run Greenwich and Conservative-run Bexley, which I served on as an Opposition councillor. I saw at first hand how the heart and soul of local government was being ripped out by successive Chancellors: green land sold off for unaffordable housing; libraries shut; and support for elderly and disabled residents stripped to the bone. This is happening up and down our country. It is a deliberate, calculated and deeply philosophical rolling back of the state. This attitude is why, in the middle of a pandemic, when councils have been on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus, we have a shameful policy of enforcing a council tax rise on hard-pressed residents while services face further cuts.
Many of my constituents will face a rise of nearly £100 a year, while seeing a Tory-run Bexley sell off land so that it can make hundreds of staff redundant. They will be paying more while their children’s centres are closed, their libraries are closed and their fees and charges skyrocket. They are paying more in Greenwich, too. Over the past 10 years, they have seen the Government reduce funding by £1,500 for every household. Let me repeat that: £1,500 for every household. Next year, Greenwich must cut £20 million and potentially the same amount for 2022 and 2023. That is a long, long way away from the very public promises that the Government were making a year ago at the start of the pandemic. Last Wednesday, I asked the Prime Minister why, when the Secretary of State had promised councils “whatever it takes”, that promise has been broken and why my constituents have to pay for his broken promises? He could not answer me then, so perhaps the Minister will do so when he closes the debate.
It should not be lost on the House that much of the council tax rise relates to social care. We are here today because the Government refuse to take responsibility and properly and sustainably fund care for some of the most vulnerable residents in our communities. There is nobody in the House who does not know the solution to this problem. We need to end the postcode lottery that means that a resident of mine living in Bexley will receive a different level of care to a resident of mine living in Greenwich.
The Government must listen to the voices of hard-pressed families around the country at a time when we desperately need to grow our economy, and when many people are facing pay freezes. An enforced council tax rise will be a disaster.