Local Government Settlement
Plenary Tuesday 17th January 201718:31:34
We do have to rigorously hold local authorities to account as far as we can in how they spend their money.
Spoken Contribution – 18:31:34
This local government settlement is the first for four years to show an overall increase in funding, and this is welcome, and UKIP will be supporting the settlement. However, we do need to ensure that local authorities make the best use of this funding, and this entails clamping down on wasteful council spending.
One new problem area is the use of Government procurement cards. Some £92 million has been spent on these cards by Welsh councils over the last five years, so we are talking about significant amounts. The National Audit Office reported in 2012 that procedures relating to these cards were too lax, and there was a lack of central guidance on when it was appropriate to use such a card. Rather remarkably, Pembrokeshire council has spent most on procurement cards, a total of £26 million since 2011—almost £8 million more than any other local authority. Given that the same council was also involved in a long-running scandal over senior officer pay, this should perhaps set the alarm bells ringing. And senior officer pay is another element that we need to rigorously monitor.
Another major issue is the decline of council services. Many local authorities are now providing much less of a service than hitherto, evidenced by things like the closure of local offices and their replacement by a call centre, the outsourcing of community facilities, and reductions in essential services like rubbish collection.
So, although it’s a reasonable settlement, we do have to rigorously hold local authorities to account as far as we can in how they spend their money.