Elizabeth Truss: It is right that more of our money that is spent locally is raised locally. In 2010, councils were 80% dependent on Government grants. By 2020, they will largely be funded by council tax and other local revenues.
Elizabeth Truss: As I have pointed out, it is right that we rebalance council spending from central Government grants to locally raised taxes, to help to keep councils accountable. We have seen councils up and down the country finding innovative ways of working, such as sharing back-office services and doing things such as installing wi-fi and improving waste collection. We have also seen Labour councils...
Elizabeth Truss: We have provided local councils with council tax flexibilities to enable them to fund spending in their areas. It is absolutely right that councils should not waste money and should find savings. The fact is that we went through an incredibly profligate period under Labour in which the Government were running record deficits, and we have succeeded in reducing the deficit by three quarters. I...
Elizabeth Truss: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Lots of councils have done things better and more efficiently, and have led the way across government. We have given more powers to local Mayors, and we are giving Mayors across the country £4.8 billion of new investment over the next 30 years.
Elizabeth Truss: It is vital that we see more housing built across the country, and that is why in the Budget we committed to 300,000 homes a year being built over the next decade.
Elizabeth Truss: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have seen the leadership of numerous Conservative councils across the country in finding new and efficient ways of doing things. That is what we need to do as a Government. We need to find better ways of doing things and more efficiency, rather than wasting money and crashing the economy, as happened under the previous Labour Government.
Elizabeth Truss: We have put additional funding into social care, and we have also allowed councils to raise the precept, but it is a very important principle that local councils are accountable to local voters for the money they spend. The situation we inherited in 2010, when 80% of the money came from the Government, meant we could have profligate local councils and local taxpayers would not have to foot...
Elizabeth Truss: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I note that council tax doubled under the previous Labour Government, and we are hearing talk from the Opposition that there might be another rise if they were to get into government again.
Elizabeth Truss: We put an extra £2 billion of spending power into the hands of the Scottish Government at the last Budget, and we have also said that we want to be flexible over public sector pay to make sure we are retaining and recruiting the best possible staff.
Elizabeth Truss: First, the spring statement is not a fiscal event, and it is vital that we maintain the discipline that we have achieved over the past eight years and keep control of public spending, because that is what has led to the strong economy we are now seeing, with record levels of employment and an increasing number of new businesses starting up. The reality is that if Labour were to get into...
Elizabeth Truss: It is a bit rich of the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that we should not bring politics into this when that is precisely what he is doing. We are making sure that local councils have the flexibility to raise council tax to fund these vital public services. Labour has to acknowledge that this is not just about the money we spend but the way we spend it. The reality is that if the entire...
Elizabeth Truss: It is for Departments to consider the equalities impact of their proposals on workforce strategy and pay. The important thing is that we reward public servants fairly for the work they do.
Elizabeth Truss: We have announced new policies on reporting the private sector pay gap. The pay gap has come down under this Government and we are now seeing a record number of women in work, and the reason is that we have taken the difficult economic decision to close the deficit and ensured that we have allowed the private sector to flourish.
Elizabeth Truss: First, I point out that those on the lowest pay have seen their real wages rise by 7% since 2015, which is the highest level for some time. Also, it is women who are more likely to be in work, with record levels of employment. We have also given additional flexibility to public services to ensure that they can recruit and retain.
Elizabeth Truss: We have made sure that local councils have the full ability to serve local residents by giving them additional council tax flexibility.
Elizabeth Truss: As laid out in the local government settlement, councils have been given the ability to increase council tax levels to pay for those services. It is vital that those taxes are raised locally, so that local councillors are accountable for the decisions they make.
Elizabeth Truss: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Local government funding has not been fair enough. That is why we are consulting on a fair formula at the moment, and I will look with interest at his representations.
Elizabeth Truss: I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that the voucher scheme invented by the previous Labour Government benefited only 600,000 families whereas our scheme is much broader—it benefits 1.5 million people—and the Labour Government’s scheme was open to private schools and private nurseries as well.
Elizabeth Truss: The hon. Lady should acknowledge that the NHS has been rated as the best healthcare system in the world. We recognise that there are extra demands on the health system and that is why we put in an extra £6.3 billion of funding at the Budget.
Elizabeth Truss: We are putting additional funding and support into children’s mental health services and the Department for Education has recently announced additional support for children’s mental health issues in schools.