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Local Government Finance Settlement — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:43 pm on 9th January 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Labour 4:43 pm, 9th January 2014

My Lords, I, too, with the leave of the House, would like to speak briefly in the gap. I declare my interest as a former Preston councillor and former Lancashire county councillor.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is right. I, like her, sat in council meetings with people such as her noble friend Lord Heseltine. However, what I want to say to her and my noble friend Lord Smith is that it is no good talking about giving Lancashire freedom and then telling it that money has been transferred from the DWP for care and urgent-need support schemes. At the time of the transfer, the money was cut from £270 million to £172 million. By 2015-16, that money will have completely disappeared. It is no good talking about giving freedom to leaders of local authorities if they have no resources to put into areas such as the youth service. It broke my heart when this Government came in and took away the education maintenance support grant, which the previous Labour Government had brought in. It was pioneered in Lancashire and was taken up by other authorities. To the young people in places such as Skelmersdale and Wigton, it was not a case of an additional party going on or of too much money being spent; it provided genuine help to young people who needed it.

I apologise for speaking in the gap. I agree that there will always be an argument about the allocation of grant, but it is no good allowing local authorities to be told by noble Lords opposite that they have the power to move the deckchairs on the Titanic. In the north of England, many of us feel that the services that are really needed are sinking and we want government recognition of that fact.