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Fri, 26 February 2021

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Austerity has hit local government harder than any other part of the public sector

Austerity has hit local government harder than any other part of the public sector
3 min read

From housing, to social care to the problems facing austerity-hit local government, the HCLG Committee will examine vital issues that affect every area of the country, writes Clive Betts

This parliament will see some key issues facing the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government which will need scrutinising and challenging in a constructive and productive way.  

The last three parliaments have seen the effects of austerity hit local government harder than any other part of the public sector. There is no doubt that in trying to protect social care for adults, those with disabilities and children, as far as possible, other basic services, whether it be street repairs, libraries, recreational services, parks, housing or the environment, have all faced disproportionate and severe cuts. The Comprehensive Spending Review and the Fair Funding Review will, therefore, be absolutely crucial in determining the level and shape of local government finance for the rest of this parliament and are major issues for the committee to address.

Alongside that is the long-term funding of social care, which, despite local governments efforts, is still failing to keep pace with demand, particularly in terms of the elderly and looked after children.

In the last Parliament, the committee showed its ability to work on a cross-party, and joint committee, basis to find solutions for social care funding, and I'm sure whatever the Government comes forward with in terms of recommendations, the committee will be keen to examine and challenge both front benches about this issue.

There are so many issues within the housing field which the Governments has committed to addressing, and the committee will have to play an important role. In the last parliament, the committee had started an inquiry into the building of social and affordable housing and what role that can play in delivering the 300,000 homes that the country needs. And with the continuing fallout from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, particularly around building regulations, cladding and fire safety the need for Government action should be on our agenda.

A draft bill on leasehold reform is promised and I anticipate the committee will want to do pre-legislative scrutiny on that to try and ensure that the legislation covers not merely future leaseholds but provide assistance and support to existing leaseholders who were mis-sold products and landed with unfair and ridiculously expensive service charges.

The proposal to abolish Section 21 evictions in the private sector is welcomed across party divides but the detail of how that's going to be done will be something the select committee can make a real contribution to exploring.

Finally, the whole issue of the structure of local government, its powers, responsibilities and its ability not merely to spend money, but to be able to raise it requires exercise attention. In the last Parliament, the committee had begun an inquiry into devolution, and I'm sure that's an absolutely key issue we will want to explore further and connect that into the proposals the Government comes forward with in its white paper.

Clive Betts is Labour MP for Sheffield South East

Read the most recent article written by Clive Betts MP - New building safety proposals are full of holes


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