Local Government Funding — [Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:15 pm on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central 3:15 pm, 27th March 2019

My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. Following eight years of austerity and some £7 billion of cuts, neither the autumn Budget nor the more recent spring statement offered any comfort to our local authorities. The Local Government Association has projected that local councils will face a funding gap of £7.8 billion by 2025, and they still face a cut of £1.3 billion next year. Last autumn’s Budget offer of £650 million for the coming year is nowhere near enough even to close the funding gap for social care, let alone to address the shortfall in other services. Such concerns cannot be addressed by the piecemeal redistribution of income that we have seen from the Government.

Central and local government need to work together on the fundamental reform of the funding of our community services, and I believe that devolution offers the opportunity to do that. When we get it right, it offers a fairer and more democratic means of governing and delivering, where working people have a greater say in the choices that affect their lives and a greater stake in the services on which they rely. We can seek radical, transformative change to our communities only if those communities can control their destinies themselves. That means that the Government need to listen to and invest in those communities and the leaders they have elected to represent them.

We need to abandon an economic and political model in which the only hope is that wealth will trickle down and prosperity will ripple out. We must replace it with a fully empowered three-tier system of Government—local, regional and national—giving each tier the powers and resources that it needs to make a difference in the communities for which it is responsible. Only if we do that correctly will we put the right people at the heart of decision making, end the status quo in which so many people have become disenfranchised, and allow communities to overcome the challenges they face, and thrive. Greater funding and stronger powers for local authorities should be the first step of that journey.