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Wera Hobhouse: The latest Budget can only cost local taxpayers

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The last few years have seen the deliberate, systematic destruction of local government.

Most people experience local services from local councils every day, from bin collections, park maintenance, and libraries through to food safety, highway repairs and care. These services matter and are core to our local democracy and what people experience from government.

Undercover and with the excuse of austerity, this Conservative government has deliberately removed the ability of communities to shape their local area. Clearly the Tories do not value public services and only believe in strengthening the private sector.

Many local services are now being contracted out to private companies, with oversight deliberately fragmented and complex, undermining democratic accountability.

The biggest cuts for local government are still to come – and be felt. Councils have emptied their reserves, stripped back services and shed staff.

The consequences of this are poor local services. Worse than that are the greater numbers of homeless people on the streets, low quality care for the elderly and limited provision for vulnerable children, especially those with mental health problems.

The one-off £650m in the Budget for adult social care won’t even allow councils to stand still. There is nothing new for children’s services, which the Local Government Association believes face a £2bn funding shortfall by 2020.

Because of central government not funding adult and children social care properly, councils will be forced to raise council tax. In effect this Budget means a hidden tax rise for hard-pressed local taxpayers in poorer boroughs.

So what is the Liberal Democrat answer to this? Properly funded local government.

The Conservative government currently plans to abolish the revenue support grant that distributes resources fairly from richer to poorer areas, replacing it with a system where councils can substantially increase council tax and retain the business rates that they collect. These proposals are highly divisive and will increase inequalities across the country.

In contrast, Liberal Democrats are totally committed to the fair distribution of money across all areas of the UK to provide local services. Wherever you live, there should be no postcode lottery.

To do this we will replace business rates with land value taxation, protecting our high streets. We will also add higher bands to council and, after 30 years, order a revaluation of property values to establish the correct council tax band for every property.

We will properly fund local government and ensure councils can run the services that communities rely on and use every day.

Wera Hobhouse (Lib Dem), spokesperson for communities and local government, and MP for Bath

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