It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. I congratulate Mr Leslie on securing this important debate. I enjoyed listening to him and thought he made a thoughtful contribution, as did Melanie Onn and my hon. Friend John Howell.
The breadth of my portfolio at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government means that I have the privilege of discussing a wide range of areas that affect people’s daily lives. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Nottingham East for raising the important issue of playgrounds. He spoke passionately about how such areas bring communities together and promote health, fitness and an appreciation of the outdoors. Like him, I am a father—I have two daughters—and I enjoy sports, so I recognise the value of having safe, welcoming, open public spaces.
Ensuring that playgrounds, parks and other open spaces are available and accessible is, in the first instance, the responsibly of individual local authorities, as the hon. Gentleman recognises. I want to say a few words about how my Department is supporting the sector in that area. I will touch on resources, which he rightly talked about, so I hope that will be of interest to him, and then I will draw on the work that is being done across Government. As he acknowledged, other Departments have a stake in this. I will bring their good work to the fore today.
On the issue of resources for local government, I would be the first to say that local authorities have done a commendable job over the past few years in delivering high-quality services, including adult social care and children’s services, and improving our roads, public spaces and playgrounds, in what has no doubt been a difficult financial climate. They should be commended for that.