Created: 13 January 2011
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on the impact of the Comprehensive Spending review on Local Government, Bob described the centralised approach to running local government under the previous Government. Under this system local authorities became accustomed to specified, performance and area based grants. This rigid system will now be removed in order to allow local authorities to work according to local priorities.
Bob has voiced his concerns about the decisions being made in Harrow East and made it clear that “Local government must transform itself and the services it provides and look at doing things radically different from how they have always done them.” Harrow Council has decided to reduce its voluntary sector funding by 30%, decimating the people who deliver services for vulnerable people. Bob stated that “It is an easy cut to make, but a short-sighted one, because the people who are being cared for by voluntary services will get worse more quickly and throw themselves on the local authority much earlier, which will be more expensive. It is a foolish way to approach the cuts.”
In this debate Bob made clear his commitment to local libraries and believes fully in the social and educational benefits that libraries deliver to communities. Speaking passionately, Bob Blackman said: “I take the view that libraries are more than just places where books are provided; there are computers there and facilities for vulnerable and deprived people who need the space to study in.”
Bob expressed his concern about the consequences of the cuts on the voluntary sector and said that any decisions local authorities make about reducing the voluntary sector are short sighted. Bob urged local authorities across the country to ensure that they safeguard voluntary sector services that are so vital to the most vulnerable.
Bob stated that he is “not one of those who says that just by merging services and joining forces with another local authority the gap will be bridged, but at a time of great challenge, all those areas have to be examined and challenged, before one looks at the visible services on which the public rely.”
Bob challenged the ever increasing salaries of those in executive positions in local government and called for increased support for the overwhelming majority council workers on much lower wages.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I have not done a study on all these things, but I reckon that virtually every chief executive of every metropolitan authority is probably earning more than the Prime Minister, and that is a serious concern. Is it right? There has to be a measure, because all the chief officers and those below take their lead from the chief executive. That is clearly a concern.
Speaking of funding for local governments Bob urged the Government to provide certainty to local authorities over their funding. It is important that local authorities can plan for the future and make wholly educated decisions in light of a long-term settlement plan. Bob insisted that we must accept the concept that we need other sources of money, and an attractive way of consulting people on what those sources should be. Funding is
We must also examine the Barnett formula, which has been in operation since the 1970s. The Labour Government did not do anything about it, nor did the previous Conservative Government. Lord Barnett, who set it up, has probably forgotten how it was developed. My hon. Friend Gavin Barwell has done a study of local authority funding over several years. It is bizarre how the formula grant has changed inappropriately-this is not a partisan point or a matter for authorities of particular political control. There must be a complete review of all the different indices for the formula so that funding is seen to be fair and understandable. At present, I do not believe that anyone could possibly understand it.
Finally, Bob argued that there must be a fundamental review of housing finance in this country; the current proposals do not go far enough. We have to make it much easier for registered social landlords and other people to borrow money to build houses, to ensure that we get the properties that we need and homes for people.
To read this debate in full, follow this link: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2011-01-13a.168.0