My Lords, I fear this is perhaps not the settlement local authority leaders have “yearned for”, to repeat the slightly gushy phrase used in the Secretary of State’s Statement. However, it would be extremely churlish not to welcome the four-year settlement proposal. Whatever sort of certainty it is, it is important that we have that basis, and I thank my noble friend for that.
I also thank her for recognising the efforts that local authorities, of all stamps, have made. We have made huge economies—ahead of the Government in many respects—and we will carry on doing so. However, I hope the Minister will be prepared—my honourable friend Tania Mathias made the same point in the Commons—to recognise the position of anomalous authorities. At first blush, our area stands to lose nearly 40% of our RSG at a stroke in one year, and we have more over-65s than other authorities in London that are twice the size, so there is a need for dialogue here.
I also ask my noble friend to be cautious about devolution. Some of it is genuine and welcome, but too much is illusion and some of it is an instrument of control. It would be good if, in the dialogue over the next few months, local government and central government between them could disentangle what devolution means.