Local Government Finances - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 2:37 pm ar 21 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 2:37, 21 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I am very grateful to all those who took part in this debate. I must say, I have appreciated the richness of what we have heard today. I hope that the Government will take note of a lot of the valuable comments made. I pay particular tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who picked out the five key words in this debate: the impact on local communities. We have a tendency to debate funding settlements and fiscal policy but the impact on local neighbourhoods, people and communities was the objective of this debate.

I listened carefully to the Minister’s reply and was pleased by one thing. I agree about the work being undertaken to make residential placements for children more sustainable; I hope that that is going to be completed fairly rapidly.

The Minister said that there has been no decline in the support for councils by the Government. I do not agree. She quoted a whole set of examples of new things happening across a range of local authorities but, first, you cannot generalise from the particular, and, secondly, they were capital projects. I am talking about the impact mostly on revenue of the switch into adult social care, which is not being recompensed for local community services.

The Government capped local authorities on council tax. Since 2016, they have required local authorities to increase council tax for the social care precept by 2%. Had all that money been supplied by the Government nationally, that 2% each year compounded would have been available for those services to those local communities. The whole point of my debate is trying to point out that we have got out of kilter here and that something needs to be done.

I am very interested in the Minister’s statement about reserves. We used to have clear rules about reserves and contingencies in local government. When we had the Audit Commission, we had all of these things. Given the, I think, £31 billion that she cited, I would love for the Minister to write to me to say what proportion of that is earmarked, what proportion is unearmarked and, indeed, what proportion is actually in-year contingencies. It would be helpful to know that.

I thank everyone for this debate; it has been helpful. I hope that this Government, and any future Government, will listen. I hope that the Government will undertake a fair funding review, which has been promised over so many years but has never happened. At that point, we might get the word “local” back into government.

Motion agreed.