Witham MP Priti Patel uses Parliamentary speech to call on Government to provide more resources to support local government services
During a debate in the House of Commons [2 July 2019], Witham MP Priti Patel has called on the Government to provide more resources to support local government services. Praising local authorities for the frontline services they deliver and the innovation and efficiencies made, Priti highlighted the pressures caused by growing demand on social care services as a result of an ageing population, with more complex needs.
She also pressed the Government to fully fund the rising costs of supporting children in Essex with special educational needs and disabilities, which have left Essex County Council with a £15m deficit that will rise. Priti stressed that fully funding these services and reforming local government funding could help save local library services. Commenting on housing growth, Priti called for the Government to support the development of communities with infrastructure and public services rather than just building housing estates. Commenting after the debate, Priti said:
“Local councils are at the forefront of delivering many of the key services which local residents and communities rely upon every day. Essex County Council have done a great job keeping their books balanced and making savings while investing in frontline services. But we now need to see additional resources come to support the delivery of their outstanding children’s services, more help for children with special needs and disabilities and funding to meet growing demand for adult social care. Investing more in these services can help ease spending pressures on other important services, including our libraries.”
“Councils also need to be empowered to ensure that sustainable communities are created with infrastructure and public services complementing new housing growth. This approach will help more people get onto the property ladder while increasing investment on our roads, schools and GPs.”
“Local authorities in Essex are also historically underfunded compared to some other areas and as part of their fair funding review the Government must address this problem. I will be working closely with the new Prime Minister to ensure that the Government fully considers the needs of our councils and the services they provide to our residents.”
Copy of speech from Hansard Official Report, 2 July 2019, Columns 1141-1144:
Priti Patel (Witham) (Con)
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones). I normally agree with him on so many things, but since he touched on the Conservative party leadership contest, let me say that there is a hustings for Conservative councillors taking place at this very moment at the Local Government Association conference. Of course, they are at the forefront of public service and our local communities, and they are proud Conservatives in the role they play in local government. I had better declare an interest: I am married to a Conservative councillor, so I will double down and reiterate that point.
I think all Members would agree that local government stands at the forefront of the delivery of so many services across our country, and that so many of our constituents depend on those services. I think it is fair to say, on the basis of the comments we have heard, that we all know there are challenges with that across our constituencies. It is appropriate that we should debate local government and the MHCLG estimates on the day that the Local Government Association holds its conference in Bournemouth, because councils are responsible for the delivery of so many vital services in our communities. I want to touch on a number of them, including housing, adult social care and supporting children with special needs, with reference to the challenges of growing demand.
Much of this has been mentioned already, but I would like to give some examples from Essex, where we also have funding pressures. It is not a policy of discrimination, if I may say so in reply to the points made by the right hon. Member for North Durham. Despite facing a tight squeeze on the funds they receive from central Government—a squeeze that started before 2010—local authorities have worked hard, and we should pay tribute to all councils, whatever their composition, because they have all worked hard to balance their books.
We know that efficiencies have been made. We know that local authorities have been innovative: services have been shared, procurement strategies changed, and some services reduced or changed. But rising demand has put councils at a tipping point where they now need some increases in resource from central Government, certainty about medium-term settlements and more flexibility over the powers they have and the ways they can generate income.
A video of the speech can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/gzTc9L8cX7Q.