Debates between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne

There have been 11 exchanges between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne

1 Mon 22nd July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (489 words)
2 Mon 17th June 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (261 words)
3 Wed 24th April 2019 Local Government and Social Care Funding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (671 words)
4 Mon 8th April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (315 words)
5 Mon 4th March 2019 Stronger Towns Fund
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (2,534 words)
6 Mon 4th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (406 words)
7 Tue 5th February 2019 Local Government Finance
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (765 words)
8 Thu 13th December 2018 Local Government Funding Settlement
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (2,860 words)
9 Mon 10th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (225 words)
10 Mon 12th November 2018 Appointment of Sir Roger Scruton
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
8 interactions (1,403 words)
11 Mon 30th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (253 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 22nd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:51 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting the issue in his own area in Northamptonshire. Equally, I can say to him that I will continue to work with him and colleagues in relation to advancing this issue in terms of the reforms that are needed and implementing them speedily. I can give him the assurance that he seeks on working with colleagues at the Department for Education. Indeed, I can confirm to him that I will continue to listen to him and see that changes are implemented as effectively and quickly as we can.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:51 p.m.

When the Secretary of State looks back on his record in the current Government, which will be his biggest regret: savage cuts to funding of children’s services, or the wider impact of austerity pushing more children into needing those dwindling services in the first place?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:52 p.m.

One thing I will not regret is ensuring that I did not listen to some of the advice that I have been hearing from the Opposition. Indeed, we saw this weekend that, on the issue of the contracting out of services, their approach is effectively one that does not look at value for money or at the quality of service; it does not look at anything, it is just based on dogma. That is not our approach, which is about delivering quality services, sticking up for communities and making sure that we have well-run councils. Indeed, it is also about seeing that we are getting that funding going into social care and other services, too. That is what motivates us; that is what motivates me. I will certainly take no lessons from the Opposition.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:52 p.m.

I asked the right hon. Gentleman about children’s services. Of course, we can see that the Secretary of State just does not get it. His cuts have had dire consequences. The Public Accounts Committee says:

“Children’s social care is increasingly becoming financially unsustainable. The proportion of local authorities that overspend…increased to 91% in 2017-18.”

The Tory-led LGA also says that there is a £1 billion funding gap for children’s services this year. When will he understand that his sticking plaster approach will not fix the broken children’s services?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

Again, we hear the same from the hon. Gentleman. When I look at the real-terms increase in core spending that councils have received this year, what do I get from Labour Members—opposition to that. They did not support it. They did not support that additional funding going into social care—children’s and adults’. We on the Government Benches have listened and responded. We will continue to take that forward, with the funding that has gone in over five years to support 20 local authorities to improve their social work practices, in addition to my commitment to listen to the sector and to advance its cause as we look to the spending review ahead to see that social care—children’s and adults’—is effective and delivers for our councils and our communities.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 17th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:51 p.m.

This year’s funding settlement offers local councils up and down the country a real-terms increase in core funding. Equally, the additional £650 million for social care is intended to address and respond to some of the issues around those services. However, she is right about the need for further reform in the longer term, and that is what we as a Government are determined to deliver.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:51 p.m.

But back in the real world, 763 youth centres have closed, over 700 libraries have closed, Sure Start and early years services have been cut in half, and one in five children are now growing up in poverty. The legacy of this Government is a decade of neglect as local government takes the biggest hit at the altar of Tory austerity. So what is the Secretary of State most proud of: an entire sector at breaking point, or the increased inequality that his savage cuts have created?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:52 p.m.

There are now more children’s centres than at any time prior to 2008, and quality has also improved. In 2010, 68% of early years providers were good or outstanding. Today, the proportion is 95%. As for outcomes, 52% of children left reception with a good level of development in 2013. Today, the proportion is 72%. I know that local government faces challenges, which is why I have argued the case for the settlement that we have this year, but the picture painted by the hon. Gentleman is designed to inflame rather than to reflect the reforms made by this Government and the positive improvements that have been delivered.

Local Government and Social Care Funding

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Wednesday 24th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne - Hansard
24 Apr 2019, 2:13 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Let me say to the Secretary of State that if he will not listen to the Chair of the Committee, he should listen to the leaders of his party’s own councils, who are saying precisely the same. There is a cliff edge, and no action that the Government have taken so far has done anything to remove it. It may have pulled a few councils back and given them a few years before they topple over, but unless we fundamentally change the Government’s approach to social care services, we will not be able to solve the crisis in local government.

For the first time in England, we have seen a standard £2,000 tax bill introduced by a Conservative council. We have also seen the costs of the failures of this Tory Government. For instance, the cost of the failure of Tory-controlled Northamptonshire County Council has been pushed on to local people because the Secretary of State allowed it to raise its tax above normal limits as it grapples with bankruptcy. Local people are paying the price of Tory mismanagement: that is what happens when the Tories do not fund local government and are in charge of the town hall.

Austerity is not over, but across the country Labour councils and councillors are showing that it does not have to be this way. Under the shadow of the present Government, Labour councillors are innovating, standing up against austerity, and protecting local services. They are the torch bearers for the new politics that we will see with the next Labour Government. On 2 May, there will be a clear choice: continued austerity with the Tories, or proper investment, fairness and a real change, with Labour councils making a real difference to the communities they represent.

We need a Labour Government because we need a Government who are committed to funding children’s services, funding adult services, funding neighbourhood services, rebuilding our communities from the grass roots up, putting pride back into civic professions, and encouraging our communities to grow and prosper. We will rebuild this country, for the many and not the few. I commend the motion to the House.

James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Parliament Live - Hansard
24 Apr 2019, 2:16 p.m.

Let me begin my speech in the same way as the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), and underline the House’s complete condemnation of the appalling terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and also in Northern Ireland.

The timing of the attack in Sri Lanka at Easter, when people were murdered at prayer, was utterly shocking, and has—rightly—been utterly condemned throughout the House. Our thoughts are firmly with the Sri Lankan community in the United Kingdom, and we send our prayers and condolences in the knowledge that so many people will have lost loved ones. Let me also say, as a former Northern Ireland Secretary, that the brutal murder of Lyra McKee was utterly shocking and disgusting, and that our thoughts and prayers are very firmly with her loved ones, her family and all who cared for her. What an incredible individual she was. At this time, as her funeral is under way, I know that the House will wish to send its thoughts, prayers and condolences to all who love her and all who care for her.

Let me now turn to the subject of today’s debate. Our local authorities and the people who serve them are delivering essential services and changing lives, and it is right that we help them to succeed. I pay tribute to all who work in our local councils up and down the country for the work that they do and the difference that they make to the lives of so many. As Secretary of State, I have made clear my support for local government, and my wish to enable councils to deliver benefits to the people whom they serve. I commend and support those councils, and I look forward to finding new ways in which services can be delivered most effectively, in the spirit of devolution, closer to the point at which they are received.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 8th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:30 p.m.

I am sorry—the hon. Lady has I think set out a request for further funding, but my understanding is only £27 million of the initial £37 million allocated to Scotland was spent, and that none was given to councils. Perhaps she can clarify the priority and intent of the SNP in Scotland to ensure that Scotland is well prepared.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Can the Secretary of State not understand the scepticism about his comments, not just from the Select Committee but from many Members on both sides of the House? After all, it was his Department that left bidding for Brexit contingency funding to the very last minute, it was his Department that diverted council funding away from some of the most deprived communities in England, and it was his botched announcement on the Stronger Towns fund that has left many of those communities feeling left behind. Can he now, without any spin or bluster, confirm to the House whether the most deprived communities in England will see a share of the shared prosperity fund that, pound for pound, is less than, equal to or greater than the share of the European structural development fund it replaces?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Before responding to the hon. Gentleman’s question, may I say how pleased I am to hear that his grandson is now recovering and returning to full health? I am sure that the whole House will cherish and treasure the fact that that young child is back on the road to recovery.

The hon. Gentleman highlights broader issues on preparation. I have already underlined the extensive work that we have done with local government. I look forward to consulting on the UK’s shared prosperity fund in detail. Those allocations will be allocated and set out through the spending review. I hope even now that his community will apply for funding through the Stronger Towns fund so that it gets the support it requires.

Stronger Towns Fund

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 4th March 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 6:35 p.m.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the work the Government are doing to support our towns.

Last week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister informed this House that the Government would launch a new fund to help our towns to grow and prosper. Today, I am delighted to confirm further details of our new stronger towns fund—a £1.6 billion fund in England, between now and 2026, to help our towns to grasp the opportunities available to them in the years to come. The British people, supported by the balanced, long-term approach taken by this Government, have worked hard to rebuild the economy after the debts we inherited in 2010. As a result, we have seen strong and consistent growth, but we want to make sure that the benefits of that growth help to support towns across the country. The country voted for Brexit—communities expressing their desire to see change in their local areas. That must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control.

It is important to remind all Members that as we move to support our nations and regions to help to take control of their own economic destiny, we do not start with a blank slate. Since 2010, seven city regions in England have elected metro mayors, with an eighth to follow in May. We created the local growth fund and devolved it to local enterprise partnerships across England to invest in their priorities for growth. We have agreed, jointly with devolved Governments and their local authorities, city and growth deals, including in Cardiff capital region and in Glasgow and the Clyde valley, with billions of pounds of additional funding. Our modern industrial strategy sets out a clear plan for the future that puts places at the heart of our ambition to create an economy that works for everyone.

But we know there is more to do. That is why we are in negotiations with other parts of the UK on more deals, including in Belfast and in Derry/Londonderry. It is why we are agreeing local industrial strategies with all places in England to get, for the first time, a real, long-term sense of what their local economies could look like in 30 years’ time. Our new stronger towns fund will build on that approach and extend our principles of devolution further, out to the towns that our success was built on. Through this, we will ensure that we spread opportunity more widely so that every community can benefit from our economic prosperity. It will be used to create new jobs, help to train local people and boost growth, with communities having a say on how the money is spent.

Today, I have published notional allocations of £1 billion of the fund. I have allocated that amount based on need. I have looked at the relative productivity, income and skills levels, and targeted more funding to those places with levels that are lower than the average, ensuring that local towns can access the funding needed to support productivity growth. Given that we all know that pockets of deprivation exist even in our most successful local economies, I have made sure that we take into account such very localised economic conditions. We will work with local areas to explore town deals that unlock local potential, investing in places and investing in people.

Today, I can therefore confirm initial allocations of £583 million to towns across the northern powerhouse, £322 million to those in the midlands engine, and £95 million across the south. The remaining £600 million will be invested following a competitive process that I invite all towns to take part in. I will publish a prospectus, which will include further details of the process, and I am keen to encourage high-quality, ambitious bids.

The message today to all Members who serve our towns is that we want those who know these places best—community leaders, local businessmen and women, civic leaders and others—to begin to think about the investments that could build on their heritage, improve productivity and boost the life chances of all their people and to bring those into a coherent plan that sets out a positive vision that people living there can rally behind and play a role in making happen.

As a Government, we have set out the value of investing in infrastructure, people, business and ideas in our industrial strategy, and we want each place to tell us the balance between those priorities for their town. We also want our local institutions to be involved. No one knows towns better than the local councils that serve them, and we want to ensure that local enterprise partnerships and mayoral combined authorities take a leading role. The Business Secretary and I are working with them on the development of local industrial strategies across England. LEPs and MCAs should play a guiding role to ensure that the plans of individual towns across a functional economic area are joined up, so that the overall strategy is greater than the sum of its parts. After all, we know that the success of many of our towns is intrinsically linked to the success of those around them.

Today’s announcement is also about our commitment to the whole Union. The Government will seek to ensure that towns in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can benefit from the stronger towns fund. This will build on the success of our city and growth deal initiatives. Today, we extend our approach to devolution and make a new offer to towns and the millions of hard-working people who live in them to set their own futures.

Finally, I want to impress on the House what the prize at stake is: people coming together, the public and private sectors working with their communities to set out what their towns can be if everyone pulls together and works together, and the steps it will take in the short term to make that vision happen. The stronger towns fund is this Government’s offer to help make that become a reality.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) is spearheading plans in his constituency, and other towns, such as Blackpool, are bursting with ideas. So many people who care so much about the towns in which they live are passionate to see that their potential is fulfilled, harnessing the strength of place and identity and unlocking the potential of all parts of our proud United Kingdom. I share that ambition and am intent to see that, as we look to the future, all parts of our country play their part and no one is left behind. This fund is part of helping to achieve that, and I commend this statement to the House.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 4:58 p.m.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, but we should call this out for what it is. This supposed funding boost is a pittance that will do little compared with the billions that his Government have already cut from our local communities. It will do little to reverse the damage that they have inflicted in each and every region. The reason that many of our towns are struggling is a near decade of politically imposed cuts, including to council funding and public services, by this Conservative Government. No one should be hoodwinked by such a shameful and pitiful attempt to gain support for the Prime Minister’s botched withdrawal agreement.

The fact is that between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 that the Government provide for services. Why has the Secretary of State cut 60p in every £1 from local government? Why did he not announce a reversal of that cut today, considering that it has left local services facing a funding gap of £3.2 billion? By 2025, the gap facing our local councils will rise to £7.8 billion.

If that was not bad enough, at a time when the Government should be reinvesting in our most deprived areas, they are instead cutting them even harder. Nine of the 10 most deprived councils in England have seen cuts of almost three times the national average. With such policies, does the Secretary of State believe that his party is truly showing itself to be the party for the few and not the many, or is this, as many of us suspect, a thinly veiled effort to mask its near decade of failure?

The Secretary of State says that he has taken deprivation into account when considering the allocation of this fund. That is baffling, because earlier in oral questions he again refused to say that deprivation would be included when considering the local government settlement. Why is deprivation rightly included in this fund but not the fair funding formula review? He mentioned Blackpool, yet Blackpool—the most deprived area in England—has seen a cut in spending power of more than £45 million this decade. That is more than the £40 million a year that the entire north-west of England will get from this fund.

Compared with the cuts that the Conservative Government have inflicted on our local communities across the country, this funding announcement is a drop in the ocean. We have seen cuts in spending of £7.3 billion over the past decade as a result of nine years of austerity. Even if we are being favourable to Ministers, the Government’s enticement is £5.7 billion short of the cuts that they have already inflicted. It is £434 million short of the damage they have caused to the east of England; £405 million short of the damage they have caused to the east midlands; £505 million short of the damage they have caused to the north-east; £1.18 billion short of the damage they have caused to the north-west; £353 million short of the damage they have caused to the south-east; £273 million short of the damage they have caused to the south-west; £709 million short of the damage they have caused to the west midlands; and £735 million short of the damage they have caused to Yorkshire and the Humber. What does the Secretary of State have to say to local people in regions for which this money still leaves a massive shortfall of hundreds of millions of pounds?

The funding promised by the Secretary of State over the next seven years does not even get close to matching the amount that regions have received from the European Union over the last seven years through European regional development and social funding. This package is £642 million a year short of the money that English regions would have received, and that is despicable.

This announcement is inadequate and confused. Why is £600 million unallocated? Why is there no clarity at all about where the money will go and on what? The Secretary of State talked about other parts of the United Kingdom. Will this money be distributed through Barnett consequentials, or will the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government be given a new role? What will the allocations to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland be? Why did No. 10 not know what period the fund was for this morning, only for it then to be clarified that it is a long period of seven years?

There is still time for Ministers to reconsider the cuts to councils. I ask the Secretary of State to do so, and to do so immediately, because the danger for us all is that our communities will continue to decline if they do not get the proper support they need. It is time for a Government that will give our towns and communities the funding, resources and support they need to recover—one that will act genuinely in the interests of the many, not the few.

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 6:49 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He sets out a narrative in relation to the savings that councils have had to make, but he ignores the fact that the last Labour Government had already set in train cuts to local government. The idea that cuts would not have had to be made by any incumbent Government is simply not a reflection of the reality.

The hon. Gentleman sets out various points in relation to the benefits attached to different communities and investment into regions, but he ignores the £9.1 billion of local growth funds to local enterprise partnerships through three rounds of competitive growth deals, the investment of £3.4 billion for the northern powerhouse, £1.9 billion for the midlands, £700 million for the east of England, £2.1 billion for London and the south-east and £970 million for the south-west. He does not mention the coastal communities fund, the home building fund and the housing infrastructure fund, and he does not mention the national productivity investment fund, which is all about investing in our regions and our communities, and ensuring that we grow productivity and all communities are able to benefit further.

However, this is about towns, as I have indicated. It is about the towns that need to see a sense of identity and sense of growth, as I set out in my statement. Yes, on the allocation of £1 billion, which the hon. Gentleman asks me to set out, there are notional allocations to the particular regions, and we want to see bids from towns, working with the local enterprise partnerships, coming through in a very positive way. Equally, as I indicated in my statement as well, we want to ensure that we reflect on the fact that towns in other areas may not necessarily fall within those neat parameters. We therefore want to see bids come in from towns across the country for deals based on their ability to set out their bright, positive future.

The hon. Gentleman listed a number of figures in relation to, as he set it out, cuts. I would say to him, equally, that he well knows that the local government financial settlement this year has a real-terms increase in the money going to the core spending power of local councils across the country. He asks what we can point to in other areas. Let us look at the changes in employment that this Government have seen: there has been a 5% increase in the north-east, 7.1% in the north-west, 7.7% in Yorkshire and the Humber, 6.8% in the east midlands, 10.1% in the west midlands, 9.1% in the east, 22.4% in London, 7.5% in the south-east and 8% in the south-west. This Government are growing the economy and seeing the benefit in jobs and prosperity, and we want to take this to the next level.

The hon. Gentleman highlighted the devolved Administrations. We will seek to ensure that towns in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can benefit, building on the success of the UK Government’s city and growth deals. We will confirm in due course the additional funding we will provide to reflect this new funding for England. This is about the determination we have for our towns—those places at the heart of our growth, our identity and our sense of who we are as a United Kingdom. I am sorry if he cannot see that, but it is actually about investing in the future, investing in our communities and seeing the bright, positive future ahead for our United Kingdom.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 4th March 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 2:42 p.m.

The hon. Lady will know the guarantees in place in relation to structural funds currently provided by the EU, but clearly we want new arrangements in place through the UK shared prosperity fund. We will come forward with the details of that fund, and the spending review will set out the monetary aspects.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 2:43 p.m.

After nine years of this Government’s slash-and-burn approach to deprived areas, the Secretary of State has announced a new fund for our left-behind towns, but since 2010 we have seen a cut to Wigan Council’s spending power—the Government’s preferred measure—of £67 million and a cut of £45 million to Blackpool’s. As a region, the north-west has lost almost £1.5 billion but will receive just £281 million over seven years under this initiative. Does he understand why Members across the House feel disappointed and patronised by his announcement today?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not recognised the additional funding that will be going into local government this coming year. The cash increase I have outlined is a real-terms increase to local government that is focused on supporting issues such as social care. Yes, the Government recognise the hard decisions that councils have had to make, but we are now supporting councils to do the right thing for their communities and ensure the improvement we all want to see.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 2:44 p.m.

It is only an increase for councils because it is predicated on those same councils’ increasing their council tax to mitigate a £1.3 billion Government grant cut. The announcement that the Minister has made today means very little, given that he plans to shift the funding formula away from those very same left-behind towns in future years to favour the wealthy Tory shires. Will he now remove any uncertainty, and ensure that deprivation is factored into any future fair funding review so that it is actually able to live up to its name?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has clearly not been through the consultation, which demonstrates on various issues such as social care where deprivation is firmly relevant. We are ensuring that we provide support for councils—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman keeps saying “baseline”; he seems to have gone into some kind of trance. We are providing £650 million for social care in the settlement for the forthcoming year because we absolutely recognise local authorities’ demands and needs; it is about seeing that local government is well supported for its communities.

Local Government Finance

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Tuesday 5th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
5 Feb 2019, 5:22 p.m.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that a number of Members wish to speak this afternoon. I hope I have been generous in taking interventions, but I am conscious of allowing sufficient time for right hon. and hon. Members to make their points for their individual communities. I did not mean any disrespect to the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), as I know he takes these issues extremely seriously. It was on that basis that I sought to be generous but I need to make progress now.

As well as more control, councils want and need to see a clearer link between the allocation of resources and local circumstances. That is why we are working with them to overhaul a funding formula that is currently far too complicated and badly out of date. We need to look at this afresh and do away with anomalies such as double weighting for urban roads compared with rural roads, which the Labour party was far too comfortable imposing. Let us not forget that local people paid the price for Labour: under the last Labour Government the average band D council tax bill went up by a staggering 109% between 1997 and 2010, costing families, on average, an extra £751 a year. Given that track record, one would think that the Opposition might have learned a lesson or two about excessive tax rises, but no. Labour’s manifesto set out plans for a new land tax on family homes, which would punish those with gardens. Labour’s garden tax would send tax bills soaring and house prices plummeting, and would pressure families to build over their back gardens. By contrast, our approach has been informed by a strong consensus on the need for fairness, for local authorities and for local taxpayers. It is now critical that everyone takes a pragmatic approach, recognising the trade-offs that are necessary to ensure we get this right and deliver a new and fair formula on time, as agreed.

This important work—on the funding formula and on increased business rates retention—reboots our system of local government, creating the space for communities to re-imagine what they can do and can be in the 21st century, and helps to renew the bonds with communities. This is of the utmost importance as we strive to ensure every part of our society and country benefits from a modern, outward-looking Britain after Brexit. No one is better placed to deliver on that than local authorities. That is why last week I released £56.5 million, to be used across this year and next, to help councils to prepare for EU exit, and it is why we are backing them to deliver every day through this settlement and the extra funding announced in the Budget. In doing so, we are delivering on what they have asked for: a real-terms increase in spending in 2019-20; support for the vulnerable; a boost for housing, with the removal of the Government cap on how much councils can borrow to build, for quality public services and local economic growth; and help for our high streets. The Labour party may turn its face against this, but it is no less than our councils and communities deserve. I commend the settlement to the House.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Feb 2019, 5:25 p.m.

We expected better from this Secretary of State and wanted to see better from this Government. I thank our dedicated council staff and our local councillors of all political persuasions and none, because, frankly, over the past nine years they have all been hung out to dry by successive Secretaries of State.

This is an Alice “Through the Looking-Glass” settlement. Ministers present a cut as an increase, but back in the real world, what we saw in the provisional settlement, which was reaffirmed last week in the Secretary of State’s written ministerial statement to the House, is that there is no new money, no new ideas and no recognition of the dire situation facing councils. Between Christmas and last week the Secretary of State had the chance to change tack, but he has just confirmed to the House that the settlement is identical to the provisional settlement that failed so miserably before Christmas.

Local government is at the heart of our local communities. It looks after the most vulnerable in society and makes our local green spaces cleaner and safer, but under this Conservative Government we have seen unprecedented levels of cuts to our local councils. The fact is simple: between 2010 and 2020, local government in England will have lost more than 60p in every £1 that the Government provide to our communities for services.

Local Government Funding Settlement

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Thursday 13th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, 11:52 a.m.

With permission, I will make a statement on funding for local authorities in England next year. Every day, councils and the many hard-working, dedicated people who work for them do their communities proud, delivering the essential services on which we all depend and making a difference to every life they touch. It is a privilege to be working with and representing those communities. In doing so, I am determined to ensure that they get the resources and support they need to rise to new opportunities and challenges, to grow their economies and to ensure that there is opportunity for all and that no one is left behind. The draft local government finance settlement being published today is an important step towards that. The provisional local authority funding allocations will be subject to further review before final settlements are made in line with my Department’s usual processes. This provisional settlement confirms that core spending power is forecast to increase from £45.1 billion in 2018-19 to £46.4 billion in 2019-20—a cash increase of 2.8% and a real-terms increase in the resources available to local authorities.

It has been challenging for councils to drive efficiencies as they have contributed to rebuilding our economy and tackling the deficit that we inherited from Labour. That is why I am delighted that the Budget committed around £1 billion of extra funding for local services, with a strong focus on supporting some of our most vulnerable groups. That includes £650 million for adult and children’s social care in 2019-20. Of that, £240 million will go towards easing winter pressures, with the flexibility to use the remaining £410 million for either adult or children’s services and, where necessary, to relieve demands on the NHS. That is on top of the £240 million announced in October to address winter pressures this year.

In addition, the Budget pledged an extra £84 million over the next five years to expand our children’s social care programmes to support more councils with high or rising numbers of children in care. That builds on the good work my Department is already doing through the troubled families programme to improve all services for families with complex programmes. The Budget also provided a boost for our high streets via a £1.5 billion package of support, including a business rates discount worth almost £900 million and a £675 million future high streets fund to help them adapt and thrive in changing times. In addition, a further £420 million will go towards repairing and improving our roads this year.

I recognise some of the pressures within social care. I have been working with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to address those pressures, and the Government will soon publish a Green Paper on the future of social care. It is a complex issue, and we are working with local authorities to ensure that we get things right. We have taken that approach across the board, listening carefully to councils of all shapes and sizes across the country and responding. My thanks go to my Ministers, especially my Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), for all their work. As a result, I can confirm that I will increase the rural services delivery grant by £16 million in 2019-20 to maintain it at last year’s level, recognising the extra costs of providing services in rural communities.

In addition, I am committing up to £20 million to maintain the new homes bonus baseline at 0.4% in 2019-20, to ensure that we continue to reward councils for delivering the homes we need. There will also be no change to the council tax referendum limits set for local authorities in 2018-19, aside from further flexibility offered on the police precept level. Authorities will have the flexibility to increase their core council tax requirement by up to 3% and can draw as needed on the adult social care precept to meet demand for services, but local residents will continue to be protected and be able to approve or veto any excessive rise in a referendum. Measures that I have agreed with the Home Secretary to allow police and crime commissioners to increase the police precept to £24 will help PCCs tackle the changing demands they face.

I am also conscious that so-called negative revenue support grant remains an issue in certain areas. Having consulted on options for addressing it, I am pleased to announce that we intend to directly eliminate the £152.9 million negative RSG in 2019-20 using forgone business rates. That will prevent any local authority from being subject to a downward adjustment to its business rates tariffs and top-ups, which could act as a disincentive to growth.

We have been listening, and we have been acting on what we hear. Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to answering calls from councils, over many years, for more control over the money they raise. Our plan to increase business rates retention to 75% from 2020 provides that and more, giving local authorities powerful incentives to grow their local economy. Under the current scheme, councils estimate that they will receive around £2.4 billion in business rates growth in 2018-19, a significant revenue stream on top of the core settlement funding I am unveiling today. It is therefore no wonder that councils are queuing up to get involved in the pilots we have been running to test the new approach.

I am delighted to announce that, in 2019-20, 15 new pilots will get under way in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, North and West Yorkshire, North of Tyne, Solent combined authority, Somerset, Staffordshire and Stoke, West Sussex and Worcestershire. We will also be piloting 75% rates retention in London and continuing the existing pilots in devolution deal areas.

I am also pleased to announce that every authority in England stands to reap the rewards of increased growth in business rates income, which has generated a surplus in the business rates levy account in 2018-19. We propose to distribute £180 million of levy surplus to all councils, based on need.

I am aware that a few authorities continue to undertake significant amounts of borrowing for commercial purposes. I share the concerns of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and others about the risks to which those local authorities are exposing themselves and local taxpayers. We are considering with Her Majesty’s Treasury what further interventions may be required.

We are also launching two further consultations today, on reforms to the business rates retention system and on the new approach to distributing funding through the review of relative needs and resources. There is little doubt that the current funding formula needs fixing and replacing with a robust, straightforward approach in which the link between local circumstances and the allocation of resources is clear. With those consultations, we are making important progress towards that and towards a stronger, more sustainable system of local government.

2019 is shaping up to be a big moment for local government, drawing together our plans for a new approach to distributing funding and increasing business rates retention, as well as the upcoming spending review. No one knows their local area like councils, which are at the heart of their communities, and we are supporting them to harness their vast local knowledge and networks—yes, to make the best of available resources and to increase efficiency, but also to innovate and improve the way we deliver services. We are working with local authorities to promote efficiency, and we will use that work to develop a package of support to help councils become more efficient and get better service outcomes. We will launch a continuous improvement tool in spring 2019, and we are championing authorities that are putting communities at the heart of service delivery.

The smarter use of technology is clearly pivotal to this work, and it has the potential to be genuinely transformative, which is why the digital declaration launched by the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks), to share and spread best practice is so important. The declaration is backed by a £7.5 million local digital innovation fund, and I am delighted to say that the first successful bids were announced last week to kick-start projects led by councils to promote service transformation.

There is so much excellent, inspiring work under way in our local communities, and it is right that we get behind it and have faith in the authorities that, day in and day out, always deliver. This settlement and the extra funding announced in the Budget reaffirm that faith, delivering a cash-terms increase of 2.8% and a real-terms increase in spending for local authorities in 2019-20; delivering extra support for the vulnerable, for quality public services, for our high streets and for local economic growth; and paving the way for a fairer, more self-sufficient and more resilient future for local government and a brighter future for the people and places it serves. I commend this settlement to the House.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, noon

First, let me thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement. But the real thanks have to go to our councillors, of all political persuasions and none, and to the frontline heroes who, despite almost a decade of austerity, have worked hard to keep our local public services going at the same time as demand has increased and funding has fallen through the floor. The under-resourcing of local government—the sector has lost 60p in every £1 of central Government funding, according to the Tory-led Local Government Association —and the reverse redistribution policies of his Ministry have exacerbated these problems, and he cannot hide from that fact.

Let us bust the myth—this might come as revelation to the Secretary of State and his Ministers—by pointing out that not all areas are the same. Some areas have greater deprivation and greater poverty, and greater demand for people-based services as a consequence, yet these same areas have fronted the heaviest cuts, and that is continuing—it is not ending. But the Government’s approach, as we have heard here again today, is to shift the burden on to council tax. He knows, and it is an inconvenient truth, that areas such as the one I represent and the one my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) represents cannot bring in anything like the resource from council tax that his own council can bring in, and that widens the inequality across England.

So can the Secretary of State confirm how much of the 2.8% that he has announced, to fanfare, is actually being raised through council tax rather than from central Government funding? Can he confirm that he is recommending an inflation-busting council tax rise this year to local government to plug his Department’s gaps? How will he therefore address the inequality issue whereby revenue support grant is distributed on a needs-based formula, but council tax revenue is collected and spent locally, meaning that the richest parts of this country will be able to raise sufficiently more than the parts of the country with real deprivation and real demand on public services? Can he confirm that his plans mean a £1.3 billion cut to RSG next year, offsetting the £1.3 billion of spending in his announcement? That really is the reverse redistribution that I talked about.

Does the Secretary of State agree with his official who told the Public Accounts Committee that the sector is sustainable only if it delivers only statutory services? The Secretary of State will know that councils deliver much more than the bare legal minimum—700 or more non-statutory services to be precise. We are talking about Sure Start centres, libraries, parks, museums and investment in youth—all are not included in his assessment of sustainability. So which of those should councils stop providing altogether, if they are to take the advice of his officials? The truth about this statement is that it was the actually the worst secret Santa ever, because much of what he has announced today was already announced by the Chancellor in his Budget—there is nothing new here.

On adult social care, we were told by the Tory-led Local Government Association that it needs £1.3 billion next year and £2 billion for children’s services, yet the Secretary of State has re-announced £650 million for both—not only that, but it could be shared with the NHS. How is that going to be split between services for adults, children’s services and the NHS? Can he clarify that? The Secretary of State says he is working with the Health and Social Care Secretary to soon publish the Green Paper on social care. Given the pressures that councils are facing, and the real heartbreak and misery experienced by service users, can he tell us how soon is “soon”? Or is this like the Brexit meaningful vote, whereby no date is ever given? The fact is that social care is in crisis. The promised Green Paper has now been delayed four times and it is more than a year late.

On public health, we have seen this week that health inequalities are widening, with life expectancy going backwards in the poorest parts of the country. After £700 million of cuts to public health budgets, and more cuts to come next year, all falling disproportionately on the poorest areas, why is the Secretary of State not doing more to protect those budgets from being used for what are clearly non-public health projects?

Two years ago on the steps of Downing Street, and again last night, the Prime Minister promised to build a country that works for everyone. At her conference, she promised to end austerity. But is it not the case that Brokenshire today delivered another broken promise? Food bank use has increased to the highest rate on record. Child homelessness has increased to the highest level in recent years. Yesterday, we were told that for the first time since records began, life expectancy has come to a standstill, and in some areas it is falling.

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights warned that local authorities have been gutted by a series of Government policies. Although the Secretary of State may wrap up his statement in Christmas paper, when we unwrap the parcel we will still see poorer areas in this country getting poorer. Frankly, that should shame us all.

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, 12:07 p.m.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s comments, but I am disappointed that he has not recognised the increases in spending that were set out in the Budget and that I have underlined, and the fact that I highlighted further spending in today’s statement. To take up his theme, one of my colleagues questioned whether the hon. Gentleman might be the Gwynch that stole Christmas. He should recognise that even in his local area there is Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, with an extra £5.6 million in core spending; Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, with an extra £4.5 million in core spending; and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, with extra £3.6 million increase in core spending.

The hon. Gentleman should recognise the context of the work that the Government have done to clear upthe mess that we inherited. [Interruption.] No, no— the UK economy has grown for five years, there are 3 million more people in employment since 2010, and manufacturing has grown for its longest period in the past 20 years. I recognise that local government has contributed to the hard work involved in clearing up that mess. We know that the demand on local services has increased. We have recognised that in the statement and will ensure not only that councils have the tools and flexibilities to deliver efficiently and effectively, but that they will have the additional funding that I set out today. We are equipping councils well.

The hon. Gentleman highlighted several points about deprivation. The most deprived authority’s core spending power is 23% higher than that of the least deprived. We take council tax into account in funding and when we look into issues of equalisation. He also highlighted the issue of negative RSG. I addressed clearly and firmly in my statement how that will be dealt with.

On social care and the £650 million, the hon. Gentleman questioned the need for strong integration—strong working between our councils and our NHS—to deliver quality services. That is profoundly what needs to happen so that we are looking after the most vulnerable in our communities. I am sorry if those on the Opposition Front Bench do not acknowledge or accept that. It is a fact that 93% of local authorities recognise that the better care fund has promoted integration and improved joint working in their areas.

This is a statement and settlement that, yes, acknowledges and recognises the pressures on social care, and that there is more work to do in respect of the forthcoming Green Paper and on how we will apply the learning from local government to drive better services. I will continue to be a champion for local government and what it delivers and does in our communities. I am proud to support local government and that positive work within our areas.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 10th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 2:45 p.m.

A clear mechanism is in place in relation to what are known as the new burdens on local government and therefore we take that into account and reflect further on the costs that local authorities may have in relation to other governmental activities, and that is what we do.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 2:46 p.m.

The record is clear: Northamptonshire bust; other councils edging towards the cliff edge; and no end to austerity, with cuts to council budgets continuing. Last week, senior officials told the Public Accounts Committee that their measure of a council’s financial sustainability is now based solely on the delivery of statutory services. Our councils are at breaking point. Is the Secretary of State not even slightly embarrassed that his Ministry has let the cat out of the bag on the decimation of local public services on his watch?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

Yes, local authorities have had to bear a cost and have made some incredible efficiencies and savings as a consequence of the need to deal with the problems that we inherited from the previous Labour Government. I say to the hon. Gentleman that, when we come to the discussion over the settlement, he will see that our work will ensure that local councils have a real-terms increase in their funding and services and therefore what we are doing to ensure that councils are viable and have a positive future.

Appointment of Sir Roger Scruton

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 12th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 4:43 p.m.

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government if he will make a statement on the appointment of Sir Roger Scruton as the chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 4:44 p.m.

On 3 November I announced that I would convene a “building better, building beautiful” commission. The aim of the commission will be to champion beauty in the built environment, as an integral part of the drive to build the homes that our communities need.

Building more homes to address the housing shortage is one of the central challenges that we face as a country. As sources such as the British Social Attitudes Survey show us, most people now accept the need for new homes, but we must ensure that we are building homes in the right places, and homes of high quality, in order to gain the support of local people.

Part of making the housing market work for everyone is ensuring that what we build is built to last, and that it respects the integrity of our existing towns, villages and cities. That will become increasingly important as we look to create new settlements across the country, and invest in the infrastructure and technology needed to ensure that they are thriving and successful places. The commission will make practical recommendations for the Government to consider, to help to ensure that new developments meet the needs and expectations of communities, making them more likely to welcome rather than resist new development.

In the selection of commissioners, my priority is to assemble experts who can provide real expertise and challenge on design quality, and a commitment to building places that communities value and support. Professor Sir Roger Scruton is a global authority on aesthetics, and was knighted for services to philosophy, teaching and public education in 2016. He is one of the country’s leading living philosophers. His commitment to promoting beauty in the built environment is well known, and he has published extensively on the subject. He was an adviser on design to the coalition Government.

As this was an advisory appointment, due diligence checks were carried out and considered prior to Sir Roger Scruton’s selection as unpaid chair. With his experience and commitment to this important agenda, Sir Roger is the right person to chair the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 4:46 p.m.

Thank you for granting the urgent question, Mr Speaker.

Across the country and in the House, there have been considerable concerns about the appointment of Sir Roger Scruton, especially as his views have become more widely known. Can the Secretary of State confirm that, as part of the appointment process, he was made aware of Sir Roger’s previously expressed views? If he was, what consideration did he give to those views in relation to Sir Roger’s suitability for such an important post? If he was not, is he not just a bit embarrassed that due process was not followed?

Break in Debate

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 4:58 p.m.

Will the Secretary of State tell us whether the Nolan principles apply to this post? Does he consider the views that Sir Roger has expressed to be appropriate for the post of chair of the commission? The primary focus of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission is to seek to address

“how new settlements can be developed with greater community consent”.

We support that aim, which is why we have launched our own planning commission, but communities are more than just bricks and mortar and planning processes. They are about people—people from diverse backgrounds —and good planning should foster good community cohesion.

When was the Secretary of State made aware of Sir Roger’s comment that homosexuality is “not normal”, and his comparison of homosexuality to incest? When was he aware that Sir Roger had complained that gay men have an obsession with the young? Will he now apologise to the LGBTQ+ community for appointing a man who holds those views?

When was the Secretary of State made aware of Sir Roger’s links to far-right organisations, and his propagation of their antisemitic conspiracy theories? Was he aware that his new chair spoke out against the disbanding of Vlaams Blok by Belgian courts after it was found to have incited racial discrimination, dismissing it as a conspiracy by the “liberal establishment”? Is that acceptable, in the Secretary of State’s view?

When was the Secretary of State made aware that Sir Roger heaped praise on Hungary’s Viktor Orbán at the height of his truly hateful, state-orchestrated, antisemitic campaign against George Soros, and that he stated in a lecture in Hungary that Jewish intelligentsia

“form part of the…Soros empire”?

We also know from reports in the Huffington Post today that Sir Roger Scruton spoke favourably of the National Front, calling it an “egalitarian” movement. Is this acceptable in the Secretary of State’s eyes?

Given this, is the Secretary of State still prepared to speak alongside Sir Roger at an event on Wednesday? If we are going to have a society that welcomes free speech, we should also hold those people to account for what they use this privilege to say. We should consider the views of the people who are left silent by the propagation of hateful rhetoric and views that should have no place in the 21st century, let alone be rewarded by a senior Government appointment.

I want the Secretary of State to confirm to this House that he has confidence in Sir Roger and the views that he holds, so that we can go forwards knowing that this Secretary of State thinks that these views are acceptable for the chair of this commission.

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 4:51 p.m.

I have to say that it saddens me that someone who has done so much to champion freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought should be subject to the kind of misinformed, ill-judged and very personal attacks that we have seen over the last few days, some of which, sadly, the hon. Gentleman has just repeated. It is all because Sir Roger has agreed to chair a commission to advise the Government on beauty in the built environment—something that he is eminently qualified to do and that he has done in the past.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of points. I would say to him that Sir Roger Scruton is a leading expert on aesthetics, who was asked to take on an unpaid role as chair of a commission looking into beauty in the built environment. He is one of the most qualified people in this particular field, so I am pleased that he has accepted that role. As a public intellectual of renown and author of over 50 books, as well as countless articles and public lectures, Sir Roger is engaged in a variety of topics, often expressing—yes—strong and controversial views.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 4:52 p.m.

Racist.

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Nov 2018, 4:53 p.m.

I am not going to repeat the word that the hon. Gentleman used and read it into the record, but I think he should consider his terms. As Sir Roger has made very clear, he has been offended and hurt by suggestions that he is in any way antisemitic or Islamophobic. Most of what has been reported is highly selected, taken completely out of context and distorted to paint an inaccurate picture. I do not have to agree with Sir Roger to acknowledge this, nor do I have to agree with his views on a number of different issues. However, we live in a free society where people can hold different opinions. I am proud that we do still live in a society where that remains possible.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect further on some of the points he made. He made some points regarding Prime Minister Orbán’s regime. If, in fact, he read the speech that was given, he would see that Roger Scruton actually took a very firm line against antisemitism—quite the opposite of the situation that has been presented by the hon. Gentleman today. I continue to believe that Sir Roger is the right person to lead this important work.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s point about the need to take this work forward, but I hope that he will recognise the huge contribution that Sir Roger Scruton has made to public debate in so many different ways. This is about freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and although we do not necessarily agree with all that Sir Roger has to say, he is uniquely qualified to provide support to our work on the built environment and aesthetics. We should support him and get on with that job.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and Andrew Gwynne
Monday 30th April 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
30 Apr 2018, 2:47 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for highlighting the business rates retention pilots. We are looking at the issue he raises quite closely and will be making further announcements in the coming weeks.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
30 Apr 2018, 2:54 p.m.

I echo your lovely words of condolence to the family of Michael Martin, Mr Speaker.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s reappointment to Cabinet. He has two shadow Secretaries of State to contend with, and I look forward to working with him and holding him and his Ministers to account on all things communities and local government. His appointment should bring a fresh approach to the crisis engulfing local government. He will know that Tory Northamptonshire is effectively insolvent and that Tory Worcestershire is now also experiencing financial pressure, with its chief executive saying last week that

“there comes a point where cost-cutting can’t go any further—there has to be a solution, and I think it has to be a national solution.”

Given that the pressures on children’s services and adult social care, alongside a 50% cut in their Government grant funding, are exacerbating these problems, will he now do what his predecessor failed to do and demand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the funding that our councils—all of them—so desperately need?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. In some ways, local government is in my blood: my father was the chief executive of a council, and some of the current debates about councils are ones that I had as a boy, believe it or not.