During this past year, Her Majesty’s Government have provided unprecedented support to businesses and individuals who have struggled throughout the pandemic. All councils and local governments throughout the United Kingdom have received vast support from the Conservative central Government to help them to meet their responsibilities and the challenges brought on by covid-19.
Since the outbreak of pandemic, Her Majesty’s Government have provided more than £8 billion directly to support local government throughout England and to help to relieve some of the pressures that local services have faced and continue to face. In March 2020, a £500 million hardship fund was announced for councils to help people through council tax relief. In May, £600 million was announced for local authorities through the infection control fund to help to assist care homes.
I fully support the motion on the local government finance report 2020-21 and welcome the fact that local government is receiving an increase of £2.3 billion in spending power for the upcoming financial year. Our local services will continue to suffer from the repercussions of the pandemic for a long time after the last vaccine has been administered; this financial settlement ensures that key services can continue to operate despite the ravages of covid-19.
I have heard Labour criticise the local government finance settlement for the next financial year and suggest that the funding relies solely on increases in council tax. It is crucial to point out that it is Labour-controlled councils that are widely characterised by spending money and employing resources in an imprudent and often chaotic manner that, quite predictably but lamentably, frequently results in deficits, for which the poor taxpayer must ultimately pay and suffer.
In my constituency of Wakefield, Labour-controlled Wakefield Metropolitan District Council has overseen a deterioration of our once great and proud city. In 2008, the council pushed through plans for a multimillion-pound market hall. The city’s market traders and residents did not want it, and it has lost an average of £190,000 a year and been largely shut to business. And that is only the cost to the council: our market town, which has roots in the medieval days, has almost entirely died.
In July, in the midst of the pandemic, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council attempted to shut the major thoroughfare of Northgate in the heart of the city of Wakefield, which would have destroyed any chance that local businesses had to recover from the first lockdown. Thankfully, for the first time in 89 years the people of Wakefield had not a Labour MP but a Conservative to represent them and listen to them. Together, we made the council listen to the people and businesses of Wakefield, who had felt ignored and poorly served for too long.
The increase in spending power does not have to equate to an increase in taxes. Where there are deficiencies, waste or profligate overspending, rectifications should be made to ensure the most effective and efficient allocation of resources. The increase in local government spending power will ensure that vital services can continue. However, councils should not immediately seek to increase taxes, but rather examine their own spending patterns to ensure that taxpayers get the best services possible for as low a cost as possible.
In short, local governments work best and serve their residents best when they are run by Conservatives, characterised by belief and pride in their communities, faith groups and families and, of course, their local communities and their country.