My Lords, while individual council tax payers might well feel a little more comfortable, of course the impact on services for their communities has been very marked, particularly in adult care and children’s services, as we are increasingly seeing. In any event, most of the £5 billion has been top-sliced from moneys that would have gone in the local government finance settlement in any event. It is a bit much for the Government to claim credit for the freeze. It is more than a freeze for some services because it is actually inflicting a cut.
That brings us to the central question about the impact of these devolution proposals between different areas. One of the objectives of the amendment, although perhaps we will need to look again at the wording, is to ensure that in the process of devolving functions and resources to the combined authorities, both of which would be welcome, fairness in respect of other areas and between the combined authorities themselves is a cardinal objective and is something that the Government will address. It is that which we want to see in terms of the report that Amendment 44B seeks to advance. Looking at it again and listening to the Minister, perhaps the objective was not made sufficiently clear in the amendment, so it is something to which we may have to return on Report.
Unless we have a fairer funding system for local government services and the people who depend on them across the piece, including those in combined authority areas, then, in our submission, the talk about devolution will prove to be more of process than of outcome, and that would be unfortunate. Let us credit the Government, and particularly the present Secretary of State, with good intentions in this respect, but unless this is accompanied by a much more rigorous examination and the necessary change in the funding of local government, including the combined authorities, those objections will not be met. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 44A withdrawn.
Clause 8 agreed.
Amendment 44B not moved.
Clause 9: General power of competence
Moved by Lord Beecham
44C: Clause 9, page 10, line 7, leave out “may” and insert “shall”