It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Main. I congratulate Thelma Walker on securing this debate. I join her in paying tribute to all those working in local government up and down the country, including her husband, for the terrific work they do to make our communities better places to live.
It may surprise hon. Members to hear that I agree with much of what has been said. First, the sheer range of things we have heard illustrates the importance of what local government does and the impact on all our residents’ and constituents’ lives. I also agree that local government has been dealing with a very difficult financial climate these past few years, for reasons we do not need to rehash in the short time we have. This Government took the right decision—the moral decision—to get our public finances back in order, and local government has played a very important role in making that happen. It deserves enormous credit for the way it has done that—for finding better, cheaper ways to do things while maintaining high resident satisfaction—but I appreciate that that journey is closer to its end than its beginning.
One thing we may disagree on, though, is the talk of cuts. We heard a lot about cuts and a lot of selective quoting of statistics. The simple truth is that the resources available to local government to spend on core services will be £1 billion higher this financial year than last financial year. That represents almost a 3% rise in the cash available to local authorities up and down the country.