Local Authority Budgets

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – in the House of Commons at on 20 February 2023.

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Photo of Helen Morgan Helen Morgan Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Levelling up, Housing and Communities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Local Government)

What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of trends in the level of local authority budgets.

Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of trends in the level of local authority budgets.

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

The local government finance settlement 2023-24 recently made available nearly £60 billion of funding for local government in England in the coming financial year, responding to the requests of the sector for clarity, space and additional resources.

Photo of Helen Morgan Helen Morgan Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Levelling up, Housing and Communities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Local Government)

Shropshire Council has recently reported that it needs to find £10 million of cuts this quarter and £50 million in the coming years. Some 85% of its budget is spent on social care, so 97% of residents are going to pay more for reduced services. Will the Government consider reviewing the fair funding formula, so that councils in rural areas can continue to provide proper services to their constituents?

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

The main message we heard from the local government sector in the past 12 months, after covid, inflation and all the pressures it had, was that it wanted stability. What we have tried to offer as part of the financial settlement for 2023-24 is a stable platform upon which colleagues in local government can plan, reform and work through where they are going in the future.

Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

Both adult and children’s social care are in crisis, but the social care grant, which can be used for both, excludes from its flawed funding formula the needs of tens of thousands of vulnerable children across this country. That means that in London alone councils will miss out on some £600 million by 2025, leaving boroughs such as mine in Richmond struggling to provide high-quality care for those children in need. Will the Minister look at fixing this faulty formula so that the most vulnerable children in our society can get the care they desperately need?

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

As I said to Helen Morgan, we are prioritising stability this year. Of course we always look at elements of the settlement and what we can or cannot do, and how we can make them better for the long term. However, substantial additional funding, support and resources are going into the local government finance settlement, which we hope will make a difference on the frontline.

Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Over a decade of Tory cuts are not the only thing damaging council budgets; fly-tipping is a stain on our communities and costs nearly £400 million a year. Taxpayers are left footing the bill for the 16% increase in this crime under a Tory Government. Councils should not pay the price for Conservatives being soft on crime, so does the Minister agree that it is time to get tough on people who do not respect our neighbourhoods? Will he back Labour’s plan for stronger punishment for fly-tippers and the introduction of clear-up squads?

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments. I absolutely agree that fly-tipping is a scourge and a crime, and that local authorities have the resources and the ability to try to do this and to crack down on it. I encourage them to do so.