Yesterday Parliament debated the local government settlement for next year. Most of the discussion was about cuts. Labour argued that the amount of Exchequer finance for local government was not enough, but declined to suggest how much more should be awarded or where the money might come from.
No-one seemed interested in debating the numbers. Indeed, few MPs wanted to debate it at all. I pointed out that the government proposes £72,000,000,000 of taxpayer support for local government next year, about the same amount as they gave this year. That is around £1200 for every man, woman and child in the UK. It is around £1400 for every man woman and child in England, as these spending figures were just for England.
The support for schools was up, as promised. There was a substantial increase in grants for environmental and housing purposes. Not even the Minister wanted to talk about the increases, as everyone was well versed in the real cuts analysis which dominates discussion of these matters.
I thought it was a disappointing day for the Commons. Surely the spending of £72,000,000,000 is an important issue? Surely more MPs have something to contribute to how this money should be spent, and what Councils do with it? Surely more could identify areas of Council spending that we could do wtihout, or we could do more effectively? There were a few genuflections to spending better, but no examples, exhortations or requirements to do so. I would be interested to hear from readers about whether you think the central government is spending too much or too little on local government, from your observations of local spending patterns.
Maybe MPs were nursing their own pay cut. Yersterday was also the day when IPSA announced that next year would see no pay rise, coupled with a 1.85% increase in pension contributions for MPs. This will take the MP’s contribution rate to 13.75%. I know this will warm some of you, though doubtless you feel it should go up by more.