General Practice: Large Housing Developments — [Peter Dowd in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 29th March 2022.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner 9:30 am, 29th March 2022

This is the benefit of having former members of the Cabinet in a debate such as this: they know what they are talking about. My right hon. Friend is completely right. We are talking about capital and ongoing revenue funding. Those new residents come with a stream of tax revenue—their council tax, their income tax and the tax from their businesses, which they will pay—so we are not asking for anything unreasonable; it is about an equitable allocation given where people live, when there are big increases in the local population.

In my local authority, there were proposals to build four health hubs. The original commitment was that those would be built by 31 March 2020, then by 2024, and we have one being built, another progressing, and complete silence on the other two. Initially, the funding was due to come from the primary care infrastructure fund, then the primary care transformation fund, with the CCG and the local authority due to make contributions at various points—but none of those routes has led to the delivery of two much-needed health hubs in my constituency.

I propose that there should be guaranteed primary care health funding for each 1,000 new homes, allocated at the time planning permission is granted and delivered as the new residents arrive, although smaller developments must also be catered for.

The current capitation figures, based on the Office for National Statistics population figures, always lag. Therefore, the infrastructure always comes too late, leaving unacceptable strain on local primary care services. We will, in the end, pay for the primary care services needed but, instead of always doing it too late, let us get ahead of the curve and stop the anxiety and upset that our constituents and primary care staff experience as a result.

I observe that the process is often shrouded in secrecy, with very little engagement with local Members of Parliament and councillors. We are the ones who feel the anger of our residents when these facilities arrive too late, but there is limited local accountability from those taking the decisions, and a confused and uncertain national funding process. We could learn from the way education funding is allocated to accommodate significant population growth. I recommend that the Prime Minister urgently convene a Cabinet Sub-Committee between the Treasury, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to deal with the issue once and for all.

I repeat the point I made to my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers. I understand that the new infrastructure levy may come to our rescue, but if it just looks forward and does not deal with these vast new housing estates—14,000 homes being built in my constituency and many thousands in the constituencies of colleagues here—we will have let down our constituents. Our country generally does public administration well; we are better than this and can fix it. I implore the Minister to go back to his Secretary of State to have a focused, cross-Government effort, led by the Prime Minister, to get this right once and for all.