Finance Bill Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office
2nd reading & Committee negatived & 3rd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee negatived (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard): House of Lords
Friday 17th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Finance Act 2020 View all Finance Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 2 July 2020 - (2 Jul 2020)
Lord Greaves Portrait Lord Greaves (LD)
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What a lot of good sense, my Lords.

The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, is in Leicester, which is having difficulties, and asked if there is any money left in the local authority coffers. I rise to tell her that there is not, and to talk about local government. I declare my interests, having been a local councillor in the Pendle area for most of the last half-century. Pendle is now working hard to avoid imposing a Leicester-type lockdown.

The Local Government Association estimates that the cost to local government of coronavirus will be about £7 billion. That is the shortfall after all the grants so far announced by the Government. One of the real problems is that the Government are not fully funding lost income. For the council in Pendle, of which I am a member, the overall cost for that small district is about £3 million, of which the Government have so far provided about £1 million, leaving a shortfall of £2 million. That may not sound a lot, but that is on this year’s budget of about £13.5 million, and so is a very substantial amount on top of all the cuts made in the last few years, which have cut council finances to the bone.

There are two specific grouses as far as we are concerned. The test and trace funding is going only to upper-tier local authorities in a shire county such as ours, whereas a lot of the hard work has to be done by the people on the ground: the district council environmental health officers and the public health staff, with the expertise and the local knowledge. In Lancashire, the money for the hubs which were set up to help people who could not afford food and other essentials during the worst of the lockdown goes to the county but is being spent by the district.

Finally, the cost to parish and town councils, particularly the big ones that provide leisure services and so on, has been very substantial. They are being left out altogether. Local government needs the shortfall of £7 billion to be addressed. The Government promised that they would provide whatever was needed. We are still waiting.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I am sure the House will join me in wishing a very happy birthday to the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab) [V]
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I draw attention to my interests as declared in the register. I agree with my noble friend Lord Rooker on manufacturing—he made a persuasive and positive case for a change of policy. A number of noble Lords have commented on the Government’s package of support for the arts and culture, but can the Minister say at the end of the debate when the Government will make a similar announcement in relation to sport and physical recreation, which have been damaged across the country at voluntary, local and professional elite level?

I want to focus the rest of my remarks on the strategy moving forward. As a number of noble Lords have said, we need to build back better. There are two issues in particular to which the Government should give a lot of thought over the coming weeks as they prepare the comprehensive spending review that will follow this Finance Bill and Budget. The first is the future prospects of young people in our country. In the 1980s, a generation was left aside as mass unemployment wreaked havoc in communities. It will be vital to build on the initiatives already announced by the Government to ensure that education and job creation in the private sector provide real opportunities for our young people over the coming years, and that those opportunities are not limited by the economic disaster of the past few months.

Secondly, I had a fascinating meeting yesterday with a couple of dozen of the UK’s top companies, all of which not only endorsed the sustainable development goals but are building them into their forward planning as they prepare to build back better. The Government are way behind the private sector in this area, despite signing up to the goals in 2015. Each Budget and comprehensive spending review since then has made no reference to those cross-government departmental goals. It is time to change that. Given our departure from the European Union and the recession that might follow this pandemic, an opportunity now exists to ensure that the Government’s policies align with those goals, and that we truly build back better both at home and abroad.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker
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My Lords, before I call the next speaker, I must announce that we will take a short adjournment after the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. I call the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville.