2.58 pm

Jo Cox (Batley and Spen) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing this important debate. She and I serve together on the Select Committee on Communities

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and Local Government, and we have received deeply worrying briefings of late on the future of local government finance, some of which I will touch on.

It is right, as a principle, to offer councils a four-year funding settlement to help them plan for the future. I welcome the Government’s initiative. However, when councils simultaneously face rumours about huge new services, such as the attendance allowance or public health, for which they may be expected to take responsibility over the same timeline, they are left with no security in their financial planning. I speak to council finance directors who are struggling to understand what will be expected of them over the next four to 10 years, which means it is incredibly difficult to plan.

The reality is that many councils have very little room left for long-term financial planning. My council tells me that it is firefighting from budget to budget without long-term certainty, and that it will be 2.5% worse off in 2020 than today, compared with national average cuts of about 0.5%. That figure does not seem very big, but it is about the size of the entire libraries budget, and let us not forget that it comes on top of incredibly severe cuts over the past four years that mean that Kirklees Council will be spending about 15% less than it spent in 2010.

I do not believe that anyone becomes a councillor to cut local library services by 32%, to cut children’s music services by 94%, to remove £700,000 from the budget to cut grass or to completely scrap community events and festivals, which is what is happening in Kirklees. Many of my constituents are feeling the even sharper end of council cuts to adult social care and other important services. My fear is that the Government want to blame local councillors.

I am struck by the fact that families living in a £70,000 terraced house in Batley in my constituency will now be getting £60 less per family member in council services than they did in 2010, but families living in a £2 million home in Oxfordshire will be getting £50 more per family member. That seems blatantly unfair, and my constituents struggle to understand it. That disparity in core spending power over the course of this Parliament is staggering and seems to be growing. For councillors such as mine in Kirklees, it does not feel like we are all in this together.

I welcome the intent behind the proposed business rate growth retention, but the Government’s announcement leaves many unanswered questions. In Kirklees Council, the potential funding gap—

Philip Davies (in the Chair): Order.

Jo Cox: Can I just finish this point?

Philip Davies (in the Chair): No; I do not like doing it, but I have to cut the hon. Lady off in her flow.

3.2 pm

Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing this debate. There can

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be no doubt that local government has been hit harder than almost any other area of the public sector over the past six years of the Government’s austerity programme. Among local authorities, councils with the most deprived populations have been hit the hardest of all. I represent part of Lambeth and part of Southwark. For simplicity, I will talk about Lambeth today, but exactly the same picture is played out across the border in Southwark.

Lambeth Council is the 29th most deprived area of England, and it has experienced the 13th highest level of cuts to date, with tens of millions of pounds of cuts still to come. Councils have been through six rounds of efficiency savings, and Lambeth has consolidated the number of core office buildings from 14 to two, reduced the number of staff by 1,000, cracked down on fraud to raise an additional £3.6 million and innovated to deliver more services online and share services with neighbouring boroughs, but it has lost more than 56% of its Government funding since 2010. Despite efficiency savings and innovation, cuts of that scale mean that the council still faces further impossibly difficult choices.

As the Prime Minister is aware, cuts to front-line services are hard to bear. Councils are increasingly forced to make a kind of Hobson’s choice between: the essential statutory services upon which our most vulnerable residents rely, such as the safeguarding of children and social care for older residents; the services that bind us all together, such as libraries, parks and street cleaning; and the services that help us build for the future, such as planning and school places.

The Government have taken a system designed to allocate resources to councils on the basis of need and turned it on its head, so that the councils with the greatest needs are dealt the greatest cuts. While the Government have cut, needs have continued to grow. The Government’s disastrous approach to housing has resulted in a dramatic increase in families presenting as homeless and needing temporary accommodation. Lambeth’s expenditure on temporary accommodation has increased from £2 million in 2011 to £11 million last year, and an ageing population means that the need for social care continues to grow.

By 2020, councils will receive no revenue support grant from the Government and will be funded entirely from council tax and business rates, with 55% of funding coming from business rates. That is a fundamental shift from a system of local funding based on allocation according to need to a system that will benefit councils with strong council tax raising abilities, a large business sector and the capacity for economic growth. Although there will undoubtedly be some winners in that system, there could potentially be some very big losers. There are big questions about how the Government will redistribute funding to councils with significant need to ensure that those with limited capacity to raise additional business rates do not face unacceptable consequences.

There is limited time today, and I will finish on time, but I hope that the Minister will answer some of those big questions about the mechanism for redistribution, and about the better care fund and how it will be distributed across the country. Without those clarifications, this major reform of council funding is a big leap into the unknown, fraught with risk.

Philip Davies (in the Chair): Order. I call Jack Dromey.

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3.5 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) both for securing this debate and for her excellent contribution. Birmingham is the city of Chamberlain, the workshop of the world, the birthplace of municipal governance and municipal enterprise, and the biggest council in Europe. It is an ambitious city with immense potential, but it is also a city of high need. The constituency that I am proud to represent, Erdington, may be rich in talent but it is one of the poorest in the country.

Birmingham is suffering from the biggest cuts in local government history. Some £567 million has gone already, and £258 million will go over the next four years—£90 million will go this year. More than half of Birmingham’s spending power has gone, with serious consequences for a caring city struggling now to care. I was at the Royal Orthopaedic hospital last Friday and was told about its desperate difficulties in discharging patients into the community precisely because there are no people there to care for them.

School crossing patrols have been put at risk; home starts supporting vulnerable families, likewise. It is not just the council but our police service and our fire service that have suffered enormous cuts and been treated unfairly. A grotesque unfairness of approach has been common throughout. In relation to the police, for example, Surrey has been treated twice as favourably as the west midlands. The National Audit Office has frequently criticised the Government’s approach to the council, and the provisional settlement this year sees Birmingham’s spending going down by £100 per household, which is much more than the average—in Oxfordshire, after the intervention of the champion of Chipping Norton, the figure is but £37.

That is why all the parties have come together in our city. In the words of the Birmingham Mail, which has been championing the campaign for a fair deal, “No More #Brumcuts”. This is a well-timed debate because the local government and police settlements will be announced next week. Birmingham MPs of all political parties recently met the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and made the kind of case that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West made for a fairness of approach. We argued that we need a more sensible, longer-term approach. Of course it is about quantity, but it must also be based on need, and not pretending that the social care precept will address the problems of the mounting costs of social care. We also made the case that if fairness is acted upon now, it would see our city £85 million better off.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be helpful to hear today that, where councils and NHS providers are willing to propose innovative ideas to try to address some of the social care problems, the Government will put up some extra funding now to make that a possibility?

Jack Dromey: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. When we met the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to discuss the immediate problems, we also discussed the wider and longer-term problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak

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(Steve McCabe), my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) will be working together at the next stage on a sensible integration of health and social care, which we badly need nationwide, and particularly in our city. We want to make progress, but it will take time because we are confronted by an immense task.

There are big wider and longer-term problems, but here and now the plea from Birmingham is simply for a fair approach. If Birmingham is treated fairly, it will suffer but £5 million cuts this year, as opposed to £90 million cuts. If Birmingham is treated unfairly—I say this with all earnestness—children going to school will be put at risk, vulnerable families will be let down, and those badly in need of care, likewise. Those who wish to come out of hospital to rejoin their loved ones at home will be stuck in hospital. I therefore urge the Government to listen to the case for the fair treatment of our city.

3.9 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing this important debate and I start by paying tribute to Liverpool City Council, the councillors and, in particular, the elected Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, who have provided outstanding leadership over what has been a very difficult period—almost six years—since they took office.

Liverpool faces funding cuts from central Government of 58% and the first response of Joe Anderson’s administration has been to seek efficiency savings. Another response has been to find innovative solutions to problems. For example, the council is undertaking very significant community asset transfers to ensure that savings can be made and services protected.

Liverpool City Council is working with the other Merseyside councils and it has been determined to achieve serious devolution through the agreement that was reached for Liverpool city region devolution. It is not a council that is turning its back on efficiency, innovation or reform. Far from it—Liverpool wants to achieve all those things—but even with efficiencies and measures such as community asset transfers we are left with a massive gap, and it is a very similar story to the one that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) has just told with regard to Birmingham.

Imran Hussain: Like Liverpool, many councils in that situation are looking, first, towards making efficiency savings and, secondly, towards innovative ideas. However, those things only go a certain way and then something must give. Most of those councils are now in that place where front-line services—libraries, cleaning services and all those important community services—are on the verge of closure. Once again, does my hon. Friend agree that this situation will have the biggest negative effect on those people who are already living in deprivation and poverty?

Stephen Twigg: I thank my hon. Friend, who has anticipated the next part of my speech, because his argument is exactly the one that I want to make, and that a number

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of our hon. Friends have already made. It is precisely the poorest areas of the country that are being hit hardest by the scale of the cuts in local government spending that we are witnessing. Efficiencies take us so far, and innovation can save money and sometimes improve services, but we are still left with a very wide gap.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West spoke about the challenges in social care. Liverpool City Council, like other local councils, has been allowed to increase the council tax for the coming year to pay for social care. That will raise about £2.5 million, which is a fraction of the money that Liverpool will need to plug the gap in social care.

One of the biggest challenges facing us is how to ensure that those who most need support in social care are getting the support they deserve. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West said, the saving in council money is not necessarily a saving in overall public spending, because a lot of those resources then have to be spent by the NHS in treating people who might otherwise be out receiving social care.

Therefore, when the Minister responds to the debate, my plea to him is to understand why it is that in some of the most deprived parts of the country, such as Liverpool, there is so much anger about the scale of the cuts that are being faced. Liverpool has said, and I believe is saying this genuinely, that it will struggle to meet its statutory responsibilities as a local authority if cuts on the scale being proposed go ahead. Liverpool has had a 58% cut in central Government funding since 2010, which is simply not sustainable. I urge the Minister—working, of course, within the constraints that his Department is operating under—to look again, especially at those authorities that are facing the largest scale of cuts.

I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West has given us this opportunity today to air these important issues.

3.13 pm

Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Ind): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies, and I thank the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) for securing what is a very important debate.

Under this Government and the previous one, local authorities have faced enormous cuts to their budgets while receiving an ever-increasing workload. Rather than power, the only thing that seems to have been devolved is austerity. The Chancellor’s spending review and the recent local government settlement were further blows for Rochdale.

During the last Parliament, Rochdale was hammered. The council was forced to cut more than £200 million from local services, which was almost half the available budget. The council leader, Richard Farnell, has been preparing for a £40 million cut over the next two years, but he will now have to plan for a further 4.5% cut to spending powers after the local government settlement, when the average cut across England was only 2.8%.

Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab): I am grateful to my borough neighbour for giving way. Like others, he has made an important point about the

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unfairness of the cuts. To illustrate that unfairness, if Manchester had had a fair share of cuts over the course of the last Parliament—not being protected from cuts but just suffering our fair share of them—we would be £1.4 million a week better off. Surely that is unfair to the really deprived boroughs in this country.

Simon Danczuk: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the unfair way that these cuts have been spread across the country.

Services in Rochdale have already been stripped back to the bare bones. For example, £8 out of every £10 in Rochdale is spent on children, the elderly and the disabled. The cuts to our budget will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable people in our town.

I do not say this lightly, but Rochdale is one of the most deprived communities in the United Kingdom. Unemployment is higher than the national average; people in the town are earning £635 less per year than they were in 2010; and on top of that, under this Government we have to accommodate more than 1,000 asylum seekers every year.

Rochdale has repeatedly been one of the three councils in the country that have been hardest-hit by successive cuts under this Government. There are proposals to cut the public health grant, despite the grant providing vital support for preventive services around drugs and alcohol, and for community health improvement. We are struggling with these issues in Rochdale, and such a cut would be devastating.

As has already been mentioned, measures in relation to the social care precept are welcome. I welcome the concept but there is an added problem, because these measures are just scraping the surface in terms of the problems facing local government. The measures will disproportionately benefit wealthy areas, not least because most of Rochdale’s housing is in council tax bands A and B, which means it only raises £1.3 million for the local authority. That money will go nowhere in terms of meeting the demand for social care. It will not even meet the increases to the minimum wage for workers in care homes; that is how inadequate the policy is.

Let me briefly turn to the point about the 100% retention of business rates, which gives Rochdale a similar problem to the one I have just described. We do not have the ability to generate the same level of resources locally for the services the area requires compared with councils with a higher tax base.

I will finish by saying that if we truly want to empower our local communities, we need to fund them properly. A one-size-fits-all policy will not deal with the issues that we need to tackle: health, education, jobs and local regeneration. Rochdale needs and deserves a better funding regime than this Government are currently creating.

3.18 pm

Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing this really important debate on local government funding.

It is clear that Government cuts to local authorities have impacted on the authorities’ ability to deliver services. That is certainly true in Coventry, where Government

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cuts are hollowing out our local communities. Since 2010, Coventry City Council has lost £94 million from its budget and by 2020 its Government grant will have been cut by a massive 65%. As a result, the council is being forced to consider proposals that will further reduce its ability to deliver the services that my constituents deserve and depend upon.

Coventry City Council has rightly prioritised the needs of vulnerable people, and despite the pressure on its budgets the council has found more than £10 million to invest in children’s services, to help to turn around a service that is overwhelmed by children who need support from the social care system.

Like many other local authorities, however, Coventry City Council is also seeing a significant rise in the number of elderly residents requiring support from adult social care. While I recognise that the Government have permitted local authorities to add a further 2% to council tax as part of the adult social care precept, that simply does not go far enough. Social care budgets are facing a perfect storm of rising demand and rising cost, but funding is not increasing far enough to cover that.

Steve Double: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Colleen Fletcher: No, I will not. I am going to finish in a bit, as I only have a minute. In Coventry this year, adult social care budgets are predicted to have been overspent by £6.7 million, but the social care precept will add only £2 million. That leaves a massive gap that the council will need to cover by reducing spending elsewhere, and it is to that expenditure that I now turn.

Many have spoken about the “graphs of doom” that show local authorities ceasing to be able to provide anything other than the most basic of statutory services and social care. Those predictions are becoming a reality in Coventry. The council has made a frank assessment that in future it will be unable to fund, among other things, libraries, community centres, voluntary agencies and road repairs to the same level that it has in the past. That means that the colour and lifeblood of our communities will begin to dwindle as support that they once received from the council is no longer there. If the Government want to help people escape poverty, tackle poor levels of productivity and deal with the long-term problems associated with worklessness, they must provide local government with the resources it needs to let our communities grow and flourish.

3.21 pm

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I first commend my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) for the clear way in which she set out the issues, in particular the impossibility of councils’ social care obligations being met. For all the talk of devolution, the reality is that the Government have shown contempt for local democracy. They are devolving not only power, but cuts, risk and blame. Worst of all, they do so in the most cynical and Machiavellian way, using sleight of hand at every opportunity. Indeed, they have got so good at spinning on these issues that they have even managed to fool the Prime Minister, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) pointed out earlier.

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One consistent concern that I have heard from local government is about how the Government keep moving the goalposts. The most recent autumn statement contained a total of 10 changes that have left my council, Cheshire West and Chester, £8.4 million worse off. That is on top of a funding formula error that means the council will receive £2.3 million less than previously indicated. Overall, the council will lose £90 million of central Government grant over 10 years, and in-year cuts such as those to public health not only make planning difficult, but will cost us all more in the long term.

There is widespread agreement that devolution is a good thing, but I do not believe the Government are so good at putting it into practice. True devolution means central Government trusting local government. An example of where they have not done that is the proposal to deny councils the new homes bonus where planning permission has been granted on appeal. That is a blatant attack on local democracy. It seems we have a transfer of responsibility, but not a genuine transfer of power.

The council tax reduction scheme is a classic example of the Government passing on a cut locally, but dressing it up as a new power to be enjoyed by local government. It is an invidious choice for councils: do they cut local services or take money off some of the poorest people in their communities? Another example is the Housing and Planning Bill, which proposes an annual raid on council housing revenue accounts. The retention of business rates is in principle a welcome measure, but in its current form it passes on risk and uncertainty while failing to pass on the power and flexibility to allow councils to grow their local economies.

There has to be greater consistency in the powers given, so that it does not look like local government is just getting the difficult decisions that central Government want to swerve. The Communities and Local Government Committee has just published a report on devolution, and I want to draw attention to one comment in it:

“We also believe that the Government’s approach to devolution in practice has lacked rigour as to process: there are no clear, measurable objectives for devolution, the timetable is rushed and efforts are not being made to inject openness or transparency into the deal negotiations.”

I hope the Government will take heed of those comments, as they not only apply to devolution, but rather neatly sum up many of my criticisms of how the council funding regime operates. Local government is full of great innovators, and they should be given respect, true freedom and fair funding.

3.24 pm

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on the clarity with which she presented her case and the characteristic forcefulness of her argument.

I mainly want to say a few words about Knowsley Council and how it is affected by the settlement, but before I do that, it is worth looking at the context of the past 10 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) referred to our city region. Over the past 10 years, the support to local authorities in the Liverpool city region has been cut by a staggering £800 million. In Knowsley, that has meant a cut of £90 million, which I calculate to be £1,500 a household. He rightly mentioned devolution, which the local authorities and he and I welcome, but any pretence that it will

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resolve the problems we are confronting with funding for local government is fraudulent, because all it brings with it is £30 million a year in extra funding for infrastructure problems, and it will not resolve any of the issues that concern us in some of the most deprived parts of the country.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) talked about the difficulties that his local authority is experiencing. I have every sympathy with him, but his area has not been subject to the reductions in grants and support over the past 10 years that areas such as Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham have. He sets up a slightly false dichotomy between rural and urban areas. The dichotomy is between the areas with the greatest need and those with less need.

I want to say a few words about some of the issues that the Minister might mention when he comes to reply. We welcome the additional 2% flexibility on social care, but in Knowsley’s case that produces only £550,000 a year, when we face pressures of £3 million a year. There will be a massive reduction in the resources available. With the new homes bonus mechanism, for every pound that is withheld, we only get 38p back, so that is not much of a help. Finally, we do not even know what the figures on public health are at the moment, but it is likely that there will be a reduction there, too, and that is disgraceful.

3.27 pm

Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing a debate that is close to my heart. I was a councillor before I entered Parliament, and I saw at first hand the effects of the Government’s policies because I was in charge of a £22 million budget. The Chancellor will often talk about making tough decisions to secure economic stability, but when it comes to direct attacks, such as cuts to tax credits or police budgets, the Government make embarrassing U-turns. However, when it comes to cuts to local government, they persist, because they can shove the blame on to local councillors and local councils, who then have to face angry residents.

When I was on Camden Council, we were told to find £80 million of cuts between 2010 and 2014. That level of cuts cannot be found just through efficiencies and cutting the fat and discretionary services. We had to cut front-line services. Consider this: by 2018, Camden Council will receive half of what it receives from central Government. In a few years’ time, the council will have to have cut £180 million from its budget. That represents one year’s spending on adult social care—including mental health services—at £99 million, homelessness support at £33 million and waste services at £36 million.

Parts of Brent are in my constituency, and that borough has had an £80 million shortfall. It will face further cuts of 25% over the next three years, and it is considered to be one of the four most vulnerable boroughs in London. It ranks in the top 10% of vulnerable boroughs in the country. Some 31% of children in the borough live in families that are dependent on tax credits. One third of residents live on salaries below the London living wage, because of our low-wage economy.

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Liz Kendall: My hon. Friend mentions the difficulties and cuts in social care services. Has she seen in her local NHS the problems of more elderly people going into hospital and the delayed discharges from hospital, which, as I have argued before, cost the taxpayer more?

Tulip Siddiq: I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. Yes, I have seen real-life examples of the situations she describes. We could focus on many vulnerable groups, but I particularly want to mention people with mental health problems. The Prime Minister has said over and over that we should have a frank discussion about people with mental health problems and not talk about them in hushed tones or whisper around the topic. Well, let me tell the House: people with health problems are the ones who are shouting the loudest, because local services are a lifeline for people with mental health problems. One constituent of mine tells me that the day centre she relies on—which helps her to handle her mental health problems and helps her with independent living and support—will not be there any more because it will be receiving £100,000 of cuts in the next few years.

We cannot talk about fixing the roof when the sun is shining if we crush the roots of local democracy, which is what is happening by disfranchising people and taking away the services they rely on. I urge the Minister to think carefully about how local councils are struggling and suffering as their budgets are hit over and over by national Government. If we have to make tough decisions, we have to take it on the chin in national Government and not simply push the blame on to local councillors and councils that are dependent on handouts from national Government.

3.31 pm

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing this debate on the far-reaching, deep and savage cuts to local government funding.

My involvement with local government goes back many years. I was elected to Liverpool City Council in 1973 and remained there until 2000. I had a front-row seat during the Thatcher years, witnessing the devastating effects of a Government determined to bring local government to its knees. Today, sadly, I see that happening all over again, but I fear it will be even worse this time. The Government are pushing local authorities to the financial brink, to the limits of their organisational capacity, and pushing even statutory services to the point of collapse. The Government explain the need for cuts and assure us that front-line services should not be affected. We have heard it on the NHS and policing time and again, but the reality is very different.

Lancashire County Council had projected to make £65 million in budget reductions this year, with a £263 million funding gap by 2020. The Government formula, imposed without consultation or any transitional arrangements, means that the council is required to make £76 million in savings, and by 2020 will face a £303 million gap. Those are staggering sums of money, but it is often difficult to know what it really means. Besides cuts in social services, in West Lancashire there is a long list. Vital bus services, such as the 3A and 5, are facing the axe. Schoolchildren and people wanting to go

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to the doctor’s, the hospital or social events are being abandoned. Eroding the principle and availability of public transport has a direct financial and sometimes personal cost. There is an irony in offering people a bus pass when there are no buses to use them on. It is like giving people a free TV licence and confiscating the TV. Public transport is an absolute lifeline.

The Government talk about choice in education, but there is no choice if people cannot get a bus there. In West Lancashire, the Environment Agency’s budget has been cut, and now there is talk of turning off pumps, which will mean that the area is flooded even more. We have been subject to the most savage and awful flooding in recent weeks.

I do not think it is dramatic to say we are facing a crisis in local government. The Government need to make the right decisions—fair decisions—and they cannot stand by, tie the hands and feet of local government, kick them into the river and stand back and say, “Look, they can’t swim.” Now it is clear that the Conservatives know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

3.34 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) has mentioned, areas of deprivation have suffered more in cuts to council funding than more prosperous areas. Inner London boroughs, metropolitan areas and councils in the north have seen disproportionately harsh cuts. Hartlepool Borough Council’s grant has been reduced by 40% since 2010, and, as per the 2010 index of multiple deprivation, Hartlepool is the 24th most deprived local authority out of 354 areas in Britain. I see the consequences of austerity and deprivation every day.

For Hartlepool Borough Council’s budget over the five years to 2015-16, there has been a cut in spending power of £313 per person, the highest of any local authority in the north-east, which is itself the region with the highest cuts to council funding. In December, it was announced that the local authority would lose a further £2.1 million in Government grant in 2016-17, on top of an anticipated £2.8 million. How does the Minister think that areas such as Hartlepool can have such levels of unfair cuts? Why has he moved the funding formula away from a needs-based approach for the provision of local government services?

My second point relates to business rates and the unusual, if not unique, positon of Hartlepool and the nuclear power station. Hartlepool is the second smallest unitary authority in the country, although there is nothing wrong with being small. About £33 million comes from council tax generated locally. Business rates are a bigger provider of local government finance, with a total rateable value of nearly £100 million. The nuclear power station in my constituency provides about a third of that entire business rate income, at just over £33 million. So the business rates bill equates almost identically to the council tax revenue.

The unique position of Hartlepool is two-fold. First, there is nowhere else in the country that has such a large payer of business rates proportionate to the rest of the business rate base. Secondly, the nuclear power station has often quick and unexpected shutdowns for health and safety purposes, with a consequent loss of business rates that cannot be collected, and the council has no ability to manage or plan for that. In addition, there has

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been a revised valuation of business rates, which means that the power station pays less—£3.9 million this year and every year in perpetuity. To put that in context, to make up this shortfall of income, there would need to be an increase in council tax of about 11%, or the construction of 2,700 properties paying band D council tax: the equivalent of increasing the size of the town by 12%. That is simply not going to happen.

The Secretary of State was kind enough to meet with me, the leader and the chief executive of Hartlepool Borough Council to discuss this matter. Will the Minister continue to look at this so that Hartlepool residents do not suffer?

Philip Davies (in the Chair): Just to confirm, the Front-Bench spokesmen are not subject to the same time limits, but I want to get to the Minister before 10 minutes to 4, to give him time to answer the points raised and also for the hon. Member for Leicester West to briefly sum up.

3.38 pm

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I thank the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) and my colleagues from the Communities and Local Government Committee for their contributions this afternoon. It seems absolutely clear that there is a serious crisis in local government in England in terms of funding and the resources allocated according to the funding formulas that are in place. I cannot say that I am greatly familiar with how the funding formulas operate in England, but it seems clear that, regardless of which part of the country Members come from, there seems to be a sense that the funding formula does not work.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) made clear his concerns about the funding formula, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and Members from other places, both urban and rural, raised concerns about how it works for them. The Minister really ought to look more closely at the formula to see whether there is another mechanism that could be used, because there clearly is a problem.

The disproportionate level of cuts that local councils face in England is stark. We are having a debate in Scotland about local government funding, and we have been able to protect it in Scotland to a far greater extent than has been possible here. What is happening here is a choice. The Government have chosen austerity and they are passing the blame for austerity on to local government, which is completely unfair and unjust. That really should be looked at again.

The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) talked about cuts being passed on in the guise of powers. That is true and really quite stark. It is a very sleekit way for the Government to duck their responsibilities and pass on cuts. It is really unfair for them to pass on the social care precept as a tax rise for local government to carry out.

The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) spoke movingly about vulnerable people and areas of deprivation. People are already suffering great injustices and there are great societal imbalances in how people live that are now being compounded. I very much agree with what the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) said about the Thatcher years, when

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councils were brought to the brink. We are coming round to that again. In parts of Scotland, particularly parts of Glasgow, we are still living with the social impact of those cuts, and that will be true for constituencies throughout the country. Many families have already lived through that. We do not want to see it again if it is in any way avoidable, because it seems completely unfair.

With some exceptions, such as the hon. Member for Gainsborough, there are relatively few Tories present. The House of Commons Library debate pack provides some evidence that Conservative MPs and councillors throughout the country have concerns about these matters, so it is a shame that that was not reflected in the balance of the debate.

I do not want to take up much more time because I know that Members will want to the Minister’s response.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): This is the first time I have attended a debate for which you have been in the Chair, Mr Davies, and we have known each other a long time. I thank the hon. Lady for giving way. I want to give her an idea of what is happening in places such as Coventry, which by the end of the decade will have lost something like 60% of its budget to cuts. Over the next three years it has to find about £28 million. That is a hefty sum in anyone’s language. She made a telling point in her opening remarks: we have to remember that the Conservatives always pick up from where they left off the last time they were in government. If people do not see that, they must be blind.

Alison Thewliss: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. The Government are making a choice. I hope that councils throughout the country will challenge them very strongly on this. The Communities and Local Government Committee hears concerns from across the country about the range of policies that are coming and the funding gaps that are emerging. We have to be extremely careful, because it will be our constituents who come back to us and say, “What’s happened to the service provision in my area?” It is this House and the Government’s austerity obsession that are causing all these problems locally. We need to challenge that wherever we can.

3.43 pm

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing this important debate and thank the many Members who have turned up to take part.

I really hope that the Minister is in listening mode today, because my goodness, he has had a powerful lesson in the impact of his decisions on communities right across the country. I predict that when he responds he will claim that he and the Government have protected local government funding, but they have not. In fact, they have cut £1 in every £3 available to councils as the settlement funding assessment falls by 34%. They have cut some NHS budgets, handed them over to local government to take the blame and included that figure in the core spending power so that it does not look like spending has fallen by so much overall.

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To partly fill the gap, the Government’s funding assumptions expect councils to increase council tax by 1.7% a year, every year, and on top of that impose a 2% social care precept. That still leaves a giant £1 billion social care funding gap, which will hit the poorest communities in the country the hardest. All that adds up to a 20% council tax rise over four years—a council tax rise that was designed in Downing Street. The scale of the Government cuts that are being imposed means that council tax payers will be forced to pay more while getting less.

Justin Madders: Would my hon. Friend be surprised to learn that the Conservative party’s manifesto for last year’s general election promised to keep council tax rises to a very low minimum?

Mr Reed: Given the rest of what the Government are up to, I am not surprised at all, but I share my hon. Friend’s disappointment.

As we have heard this afternoon, local government funding under this Government is deeply unfair. That is illustrated by the fact that the 10 most deprived councils in England have been hit by cuts that are 18 times higher than those for the 10 least deprived councils. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that during the last Parliament, social care spending fell by £65 per person in the most deprived areas. We have more frail and older people in need of care, but less and less money to pay for the services they need.

Even the Tory-led Local Government Association has warned that after the local government settlement, social care will still face a giant £l billion funding black hole by 2020. That can mean one of only two things: either more older and disabled people will be denied the vital services that they need, or other vital public services will be cut back even harder to make up the difference. That means services such as keeping street lights on at night, filling in potholes, repairing broken pavements, sweeping the streets, removing dumped rubbish, emptying the bins, maintaining parks, providing youth services and children’s centres and keeping libraries and museums open. All those things that affect the quality of life of every community are under threat because of the Government’s decisions on funding local services. I urge the Minister to explain whether it is his Government’s policy to close the funding gap and ensure that older people get the care that they deserve—or will he stand back and watch as services are decimated?

The Government have come up with a cunning plan to cut the NHS while pretending to have kept their promise not to. Services have been taken out of the NHS and then cut before being handed over to councils in the clear expectation that the councils will take the blame for the chaos that will follow. Particularly affected will be treatments for drug and alcohol abuse and work to tackle the country’s obesity crisis and to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Not only is that a bad idea in health terms, but it makes absolutely no sense in financial terms. We will all be made to pay the cost of dealing with health crises as they get worse because of short-sighted, short-term funding cuts. In the words of the LGA, which, let us remember, is led by the Conservative party, these

“drastic cuts will have a major impact on the many prevention and early intervention services carried out by councils.”

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Labour welcomes the Government’s proposal to allow the full retention of business rates, although we are disappointed that that will not happen before 2020. Nevertheless, without an effective equalisation measure, the Government’s plans for business rates devolution will make the system even more unequal. Without certainty about what further services will have to be paid for, there is no knowing whether it is simply cover for yet more Government cuts. Westminster City Council accounts for 8% of England’s entire business rates intake—that is more than Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol combined. The Minister promised me in the main Chamber that the Chancellor would make the equalisation mechanism clear during the autumn statement, but the statement came and went with no announcement. Worryingly, the Municipal Journal quotes a senior official saying that the Department for Communities and Local Government has done “no thinking” about how the system will work. Will the Minister explain why not? Does the fact that the Department has done no thinking explain why the Chancellor did not make the announcement that the Minister told me he would?

The entire financial crisis stemmed from the irresponsible behaviour of the banks, but instead of being open about their response to dealing with it, the Government are cutting councils harder and harder while coming up with ever more ingenious ways to try to cover up what they are trying to do. By the end of this Parliament they will have cut council funding by more than two thirds, with Britain’s poorest communities suffering the biggest cuts. Unfair funding, council tax hikes and an assault on the quality of life of every community in the country—that is the Tory record on local government funding. It is simply unacceptable.

3.49 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Marcus Jones): I congratulate the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) on securing the debate, and it is a pleasure to respond to it. Before I proceed, I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of councils across the country over the past five years and the contribution they have made to improving local services in challenging times. However, we need to make more savings as we finish the job of eliminating the largest deficit in post-war history.

We listened carefully to councils when preparing the provisional settlement that was recently consulted on. I thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation and made considered comments about our proposals. I and my fellow Ministers spoke to local government leaders from across the country and many colleagues in the House. Although the hon. Lady did not make representations to that consultation, I am pleased to be able to discuss these issues with her today. I thank all Members who took the time to respond to the consultation, and I thank councils for their detailed and considered comments on our proposals. We are reflecting carefully on them at the moment.

We have previously had one of the most centralised states in the world—almost 80% of council spending was financed through central Government grants at the start of the previous Parliament—but councils will be entirely financed by their own resources by 2020. Local government will retain 100% of the business rates, fees and charges raised by councils, leaving them fully

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accountable to the electorate rather than Whitehall. Those huge changes will not be made without careful consideration and consultation in the coming months. Hon. Members will have the chance to have input into the design of the new business rates retention process, which is the other side of the Government’s devolution agenda.

Mr George Howarth: The Minister might recall that that was almost exactly the argument that was used to justify the poll tax—[Interruption.] Oh yes, it was. Does he accept that local authorities with lower tax bases will not benefit from the changes unless there is a proper recognition of need? If anything, the situation will get worse.

Mr Jones: I have got very little time, but I have made my views on that point very clear to the House in recent months.

Hon. Members will have the chance to get involved in the process of business rate retention in the coming months. The Government do not underestimate the challenges. Local government representatives consistently tell me, as they told my predecessors over many years, that greater certainty about their income over the medium term would enable them to organise more efficiently and strategically, and put their safety-net reserves to more productive use. This settlement will for the first time ever offer a guaranteed budget to every council that desires one and can demonstrate efficiency savings for the next year and every year of the Parliament. Four-year settlements will give local government more certainty and confidence. Councils will also be able to spend 100% of capital receipts from asset sales to implement cost-saving reforms.

As we move to a world of full localisation of income, it does not make sense to talk simply about Government grants, as a number of Opposition Members did. As colleagues know, the revenue support grant will be phased out by 2020, but local government will still spend significant sums of money. Therefore, it makes more sense to talk about the wider measure of council spending power, which we improved after listening to the Public Accounts Committee and the Communities and Local Government Committee. We no longer include the NHS-scored better care fund or the ring-fenced public health grant in the calculation, since councils cannot spend those funds as they wish.

Overall, our proposals are fair. Councils’ core spending power will remain virtually unchanged over the Parliament—it will go from £44.5 billion in 2015-16 to £44.3 billion in 2019-20.

Sir Edward Leigh: Will the Minister give way on the issue of rural areas?

Mr Jones: I am sorry, but I have not got time to give way again. There are a number of things I need to talk about, but I will come to the issue of rural areas in a moment to address my hon. Friend’s earlier point.

Real-terms savings of 6.7% are required over this spending review period, compared with the 14% savings announced in the 2010 spending review. Even the Institute for Fiscal Studies recognises that that is substantially lower than the spending reductions that councils had to deliver between 2009-10 and 2015-16.

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On adult social care, we responded to the clear call from all tiers of government and many colleagues in the House to recognise the importance of the growing cost of caring for our elderly population. The Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services asked for £2.9 billion by 2020 as a contribution to the cost of social care. In the settlement, we make up to £3.5 billion available by that year. It will be distributed fairly to local authorities with social care responsibilities. There will also be a package of support for councils working with the local NHS to address pressures on care, a dedicated social care precept of 2% per year, and a fund of £1.5 billion by 2019-20 to complement the new precept. We recognise that councils providing services in rural areas face additional costs, so we have proposed that the rural services delivery grant should be quadrupled from £15.5 million this year to £65 million by 2019-20 to address those issues.

Let me cover one or two of the points that the hon. Member for Leicester West made. She and a number of other Opposition Members spent a lot of time talking about the effect that the reduction in central Government spending will have on local government. They have very quickly forgotten that their election manifesto clearly set out a path for reducing local government spending. They may wish to take that into account. The core spending power measure is the most accurate way of measuring councils’ expenditure. Leicester has a core spending power of £2,003 per household this year, compared with the English average of £1,829, so I hope that reassures the hon. Lady that Leicester is not getting a bad deal.

On the point made by the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) about council tax, the Conservative party will not listen to any lectures from the Labour party. Council tax is 11% lower in real terms than it was five years ago. I remind the hon. Gentleman that council

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tax doubled under the Labour Government between 1997 and 2010, so the Labour party clearly says one thing in opposition and does something else in government.

We recognise the challenges that have been raised today and those that lie ahead. This is a time of big opportunity and expectation for local government reform. We are moving to a world long desired by local government, in which councils are financed by local sources. Whitehall’s apron strings will be cut. Central and local government are decisively addressing social care pressures, and we are beginning to design long-term integrated care and lasting local solutions.

I know that these changes require a lot of hard work from councils, but changes always do. However, I am confident that, after we have carefully considered the consultation responses before announcing the final settlement, and after we have undertaken a further period of meaningfully engaging and working with local government to design a 100% business rates retention scheme, hon. Members will agree that a better future of proper local control is becoming a reality at last.

3.59 pm

Liz Kendall: With the greatest respect, that was a head-in-the-sand denial of the problems. The Minister said that, overall, the Government’s proposals are fair. They are not. The areas with the greatest need and the most deprived communities have been hit hardest.

I ask the Minister to look again at what is happening to adult social care. I am deeply concerned that care home providers will fail and that vulnerable elderly people will not get support. That will pile pressure on the NHS, and in the end we will have to pay the cost, but it will be more expensive and done in the least efficient way. Opposition Members will continue to press the case for fair funding for our councils and communities.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).

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Bootham Park Mental Health Hospital

[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

4 pm

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

That this House has considered the closure of Bootham Park mental health hospital.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. It has taken four months to secure today’s important debate about the circumstances surrounding the sudden closure of Bootham Park hospital. I am still waiting for the round table that I requested with the Minister, and for the vital independent investigation into what really happened at Bootham. Although City of York Council and NHS England are carrying out an operational review, but not a strategic review, we must remember that NHS England is not independent of what happened at Bootham.

Today, I will describe the story behind the headlines of how the system failed mental health patients in my constituency and put their lives at risk, why the issues cannot be ignored any longer, and how what happened at Bootham has national implications. Without urgent change, the problems could be replicated anywhere in the country. Two successive Care Quality Commission inspections in 2013 and 2014 highlighted risks at the 240-year-old hospital, including the line of sight around the quadrangle wards, ligature points and doors that presented suicide risks, and not enough staff. Those issues should have impressed upon all involved in the service that the setting was not safe and urgent action should have been taken, but even with the CQC report, inertia followed.

First, too many bodies were involved at Bootham Park. NHS Property Services Ltd owned the site. The commissioning was done by Vale of York clinical commissioning group. Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was the provider. York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust provided maintenance. English Heritage—now Historic England—had an interest in the listed buildings. Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust—TEWV—become the new provider from 1 October 2015. By the end, other bodies, including City of York Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, NHS England, Monitor and the CQC, had a role in proceedings but, strangely enough, the safeguarding board did not.

The problem with the system was the unbelievable scope for too many organisations to blame one another for the lack of progress in addressing the CQC’s safety demands. I do not have the time today to run through each authority’s lack of action, but their cumulative inaction put lives at risk. There should be one authoritative body and one controlling mind, not different jurisdictions with different lines of accountability and different interests that do not relate to one another as they need to. They did before 2012. There must be a place where such matters can be settled. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gives scope for confusion, which is admitted by those involved and evident from what happened. There are conflicting authorities, so there must be one clear and authoritative oversight of decision making in the NHS, so that everyone knows where responsibility lies. If clarity is needed, it should be quickly and easily established. This is about good governance.

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Secondly, there was an issue with making things happen. Why did years pass without the CQC recommendations being implemented? How was that allowed to happen? The CQC stated the necessary improvements, but then the very bodies criticised are the ones who have to implement the repair plan. The lack of external oversight of the work meant failure and delay. External leadership must be provided, to ensure that the right solutions are expedited. Assignment to NHS Improvement would seem the obvious choice. The CQC’s enforcement policy is clearly not working, and who polices it? The CQC has powers, including when there are repeated breaches and when action has not been taken to remove risk, but they were not used. If an effective system was in place, there would be no slippage, confusion or blame, and patient safety would be at the forefront.

Thirdly, the service was to be recommissioned. There was clear dissatisfaction with the provider’s performance and an alternative provider was selected. However, a board member at the time has reported that the Leeds and York partnership trust did not invest in the required upgrades

“in case it did not win the contract”.

In other words, the contract interests of the provider outweighed patient safety, the problems were not addressed expediently, and the hospital was left in an unsafe condition.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): I thank the hon. Lady, who is my neighbour, for giving way and congratulate her on securing the debate. I agree with what she has said so far. Does she agree that the Leeds and York partnership not only failed at that point, but had failed for many months down the line? That is why we have to get to the bottom of how it behaved throughout the whole system at Bootham Park.

Rachael Maskell: The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. We need to get to the bottom of why there has been continual failure not only at Bootham, but in the general delivery of clinical services.

The board member’s revelation was shocking and demonstrated that the current system allows for interests other than that of patient safety to be put first. Leeds and York did not invest in mental health in York, which was noted by staff and patients alike, and let the service be deemed unsafe by the CQC not once but twice, and then a third time, following a third inspection, which I will come on to later. It is also clear that the other bodies involved were not able to accelerate the inactivity. It is not that nothing was happening; discussions were ongoing, and the CQC and the Department of Health knew that a plan was slowly being drawn up by the CCG-led Bootham Park hospital programme board to address the CQC report’s findings, but “slippage” was evident. However, it is clear that frustrations existed between the bodies and blame for inaction was passed from one to the other. People hid behind jurisdictions and clear leadership was lacking once again, which is why there must be external oversight.

How can we have a health system in which there is scope for other interests, lack of focus, delay, lack of enforcement and blame, and in which CQC findings are not managed as a priority? We are back to poor governance and poor frameworks, which is what this debate is really all about. Leeds and York lost the contract to provide mental health services for the Vale of York CCG to TEWV.

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The trust appealed the decision to Monitor last June. Leeds and York then ran a highly public and politicised campaign that showed it was not interested in improving patient safety at Bootham, only in contractual matters, as I witnessed when I met with its chair. Monitor rejected the appeal and TEWV became the new provider. However, TEWV understandably wanted to inspect the plans for the building from which it would be delivering its services. I stress that the Bootham Park hospital upgrade could only ever be a temporary step, as I outlined in my maiden speech on 2 June 2015. The only safe solution will be a new build.

The CQC made an unannounced inspection on 9 and 10 September 2015. I have been unable to ascertain if this was at their instigation or that of Leeds and York partnership, but it is clear that the 20 weeks’ notice for Bootham to be removed as a suitable location was shortened due to the Monitor appeal process requested by Leeds and York, which the CQC told me impacted on its processes. However, as soon as it was clear that Monitor had turned down the Leeds and York appeal, the CQC knew that the trust would deregister, and that TEWV would have to be registered. The CQC also knew of the safety risks at Bootham, and that repairs had not been made. The CQC therefore knew that it would not be able to register Bootham as a location for TEWV to deliver services. That prompts two questions. First, why did the CQC leave the inspection until September, which then led to a rapid closure? Secondly, why did it then wait over two weeks to announce the inspection’s outcome? A longer run-in would have given more time for transition. We must keep remembering that mental health patients were put at serious risk.

The third inspection found a worsening situation. In addition to the safety risks already identified, staffing levels were worse and unsafe, record-keeping was poor, the water was found to be at a scalding temperature, and the kitchen, lounge and activity rooms gave access to an urn, electrical wires, scissors and knitting needles. A long-standing leaky toilet was leaking urine and foul water to the ward below and there was a risk of Legionella. There were other poor maintenance issues—as the CQC’s inspectors were assessing Bootham, a piece of masonry fell from the ceiling.

The CQC reported more than two weeks later, on Friday 25 September, that Bootham Park hospital must close because of the ongoing safety risks. The need for closure by midnight on 30 September 2015 was because the CQC could not re-register the facility against the new provider as being safe, because it was not. However, if the current provider were to continue to deliver the service, other options would be available.

The Leeds and York trust chief executive said on that same day that if the Vale of York CCG at the eleventh hour did not transfer over the service at the end of the month and let Leeds and York continue to provide it, it could keep the hospital open as it would not have to re-register. He said it was important that that was achieved for months until repairs were addressed. Even as patients were being cast out of their beds and out of our city, contractual issues were being placed above patient safety. The hospital was given five days—including a weekend—to close.

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The CQC fulfilled its registration remit, but that meant that the building’s registration was placed above the unsafe environment that sudden closure and relocation would place service users in. That highlights how process was the factor that closed the hospital. Patients were put at risk. There was no scope for review of the decision, no one to assess the balance of risks and transitioning arrangements and no one to agree more time despite the clinicians, patients, families and their MP all highlighting the risks.

Let me mention some of those risks: the closure of the place of safety, section 136 suite, so people in a crisis have to travel at least to Harrogate for an assessment and then on again for a bed for their own safety; the closure of acute beds, with in-patients moved as far away as Middlesbrough, creating a huge risk and insecurity; patients moved away from their support networks and families to strange environments; and the moving of 400 people engaged in out-patients’ services to new locations. I heard how one service user’s condition became so exacerbated on hearing about their move that they became seriously ill, and that is not the only story.

I have heard from a parent how their child totally withdrew—from food and from them—because he was very frightened, and they were fearful for him. I have since supported frightened service users and family members. Out-patients who were suddenly discharged were confused and one senior clinician said it would be a miracle if someone does not die.

The situation continues. We have the place of safety back and we hope that out-patients will also be back in the near future. The acute in-patients’ service will be placed in temporary accommodation from the summer, all being well. However, serious risks resulted from the decision and the deterioration of service users’ mental health occurred. Safety was put after process, with some of the most vulnerable service users placed in an unsafe situation. There was no one in the NHS under the 2012 Act who had the authority to weigh up the balance of risk and decide, when greater risk to the lives of service users could occur with the sudden move, that an alternative call could be made, such as properly planned transition. No intervention was made, not even by the Minister—in other words, no one has overarching responsibility for patient safety in the NHS. That was confirmed by all the bodies. This must change immediately.

The reason I am so vexed is that four months have passed and nothing has been done about the system. Lives remain at risk, were such events to happen elsewhere. My constituents ask me, and I ask myself: is it because we are in the north? Is it because it is mental health? Or is it because the Government are too proud to admit that their Act has created that risk, as before 2012 there was someone who made such decisions?

I know that the circumstances at Bootham Park are exceptional and I trust that this will not happen again, but it could. The lives of my constituents were put at risk, and harm to their health occurred. The system failed them. That is why I and my constituents are focused on the need for a fully independent strategic investigation. Through my work and the health overview and scrutiny committee’s processes and now their operational local review, issues have come to the surface, but an independent review must occur. Lessons must be learnt of the failures in the way that health bodies relate to one another, and the problems that there are with governance. My constituents deserve to have answers.

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Serious risks to patients were created in the NHS, and that cannot be ignored. No one died, but do we always have to wait until it is too late for someone before problems are taken seriously and situations are investigated? Agreement to an independent investigation is overdue.

In closing, I want to thank the service users and their families and carers for their continual pressure to get answers as to what happened to their services. They have been extraordinary in these very difficult times and deserve a confirmation that their concerns about the system will be addressed. I again invite the Minister to meet them. I also want to praise the outstanding efforts of all the staff involved in trying to support this unnecessary crisis, and in particular Martin Barkley for providing the leadership as the chief executive of TEWV. After 40 years of working in mental health, Martin is standing down, but I trust that his legacy will be a new, state-of-the-art mental health facility on the Bootham site for York by 2019.

Minister, four months is too long to wait to meet, too long to wait to undertake an independent review of the situation, and too long for my constituents to get the answers they deserve. Lives were put at risk and harm occurred. I trust that we can move the situation forward today.

4.16 pm

The Minister for Community and Social Care (Alistair Burt): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone, especially in the circumstances of the powerful case put forward by the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), with whom I have been in contact pretty much since this incident started. We spoke on the telephone around the day things happened and I have been in regular contact since. It is true that we have not met in a round table, but that is not a decision of mine. We agreed that when there was a point to meeting all together, we would, but things had to happen and we had to go some way down the line before that. My door has always been open and the hon. Lady has always been able to speak to me.

Rachael Maskell indicated dissent.

Alistair Burt: If she would like to deny that, I will be happy to sit down, but she knows full well that I have spoken to her regularly and I have been available. I will happily see her and her constituents at a time that is entirely appropriate: when there is something to discuss. I do not think that her charge is particularly fair.

Rachael Maskell: I am confused because I have been trying to get a meeting with the Minister—I have got correspondence for three months. I am therefore sorry if his office has let him down, but we have been trying to get a meeting, which senior clinicians also want to hold.

Alistair Burt: Let me be clear. I spoke to the hon. Lady at an early stage and first I advised that a debate would not be a bad idea to bring issues out. I was concerned that there might be delays with the trust in terms of what may happen with the new premises, but at the time of the incident there was no point in having a meeting about what would happen next. Since then I have genuinely not been aware of a request for a meeting. I am very happy to have such a meeting, but at the time it seemed sensible that we would wait until there was a

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point in having a meeting. We have met and passed each other pretty regularly in the meantime and, had there been a delay that had caused grave concern, it would have taken a matter of a second to say, “How about that letter —are we going to meet?” but I have not had that conversation.

May I thank my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) for his interest? We have spoken on this subject from time to time.

Those issues, however, are incidental. The hon. Lady’s interest has been sincere and consistent, and she highlights a pretty unhappy story in which there are circumstances that cause me genuine concern. I will first say a little about what we know about the circumstances and then what we can do next.

Bootham Park hospital could provide care to about 25 to 30 in-patients and about 400 out-patients. The Vale of York CCG had previously announced its intention to commission a new, state-of-the-art facility and is working with NHS Property Services Ltd and NHS England to press for funding. I understand that the intention is to provide a new hospital in York to replace Bootham Park by 2019. At this stage, I have heard no suggestion that that will not be the case.

Julian Sturdy: On that point, will the Minister highlight what discussions he has had with the new trust, TEWV, about the new hospital, and whether the timelines are still on track?

Alistair Burt: I have not had those discussions at this stage, because my understanding is that the timelines are on track. I suggested to the hon. Member for York Central that if there were concerns about foot-dragging, I was very willing to have that conversation with other colleagues in the room, to ensure that the original stated timetable was stuck to. I was interested in whether there was any opportunity to bring that forward, but my understanding is that that is not the case. I will come to what happens next in a moment.

Until recently, as the hon. Lady said, the hospital was operated by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. In October 2015, the Vale of York clinical commissioning group ended the relationship with that trust and asked Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust—TEWV—to take over the provision of services.

Bootham Park is a very old building, at 200 years old, and is probably one of the oldest buildings in use for patients in the NHS. It is also a grade I listed property, which has not necessarily made things any easier over time. The hon. Lady said in her maiden speech:

“Bootham is not fit for purpose and the CQC concurs.”—[Official Report, 2 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 512.]

She was entirely right. As such an old building, Bootham Park had a number of problems that modern buildings designed for healthcare services normally avoid, one of which was ligature points—in other words, fixtures or fittings that someone could use to hang themselves from. As the hon. Lady knows, that was sadly not a theoretical problem at Bootham Park, since a lady was found hanging in her room at the hospital in March 2014.

The inquest heard that in December 2013, CQC inspectors had already identified the ligature point that that lady later used, along with a number of others, and asked that it be removed. The CQC’s report, published

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in 2014, clearly said that there were a significant number of ligature risks on the ward, but that work was unfortunately not done by the trust. The coroner noted at the inquest that he would have expected management to see that the work was done.

The Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust fully accepted that it should have done the necessary work. However, when the CQC returned to inspect the hospital in January 2015, it again identified risks to patients from the building infrastructure and a continuing need to improve the patient environment. Refurbishment had been taking place both before and after the January 2015 inspection. Work carried out since February 2014, at a total cost of £1.76 million, included a number of improvements. Among those was an attempt to remove all the ligature points, as well as an overhaul of the water hygiene system and other repairs.

The CQC inspected the hospital again in early September 2015. At that point, it once more recorded a number of familiar problems, although it acknowledged the effort the trust had made to deal with them. The CQC found insufficient staffing numbers; areas with potential ligature points that could have been remedied without major works; poor hygiene and infection control; poor risk assessments, care plans and record-keeping; an unsafe environment due to ineffective maintenance; areas deemed unsafe or found unlocked; and poor lines of sight on ward 6. Furthermore, part of the ceiling had collapsed in the main corridor of the hospital. The debris was cleared away but the area was not cordoned off, which meant people were still at risk of harm.

The building’s listed status meant that it was not possible to remove all potential ligature points. The quadrangle-shaped wards meant there could never be a constant line of sight for nurses to observe patients. Despite the money already spent, the systems for sanitation and heating were outdated. The CQC felt that despite repeated identification of problems at inspections, not enough had been done—the hon. Lady was quite right to point that out—or perhaps could be done to provide services safely at the hospital. Patients remained at risk. The CQC therefore took the decision, as the regulator, to close the hospital with effect from October 2015. The CQC and the Vale of York CCG both agreed, as the hon. Lady said, that the current estate was not fit for purpose.

The timing of the closure was unfortunate. Mental health and learning disability services in the Vale of York were due to transfer from the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to TEWV on 1 October 2015. That meant the new provider was taking over as the facility was being closed down for safety reasons. However, when the CQC, as the responsible regulator, comes to the conclusion that a building is so unsafe for patient services that they cannot continue and that it cannot be made safe, the local NHS has no choice in the matter.

The hon. Lady spoke about the number of different organisations involved. I understand her frustration, and I am interested in looking at how that has happened. Different bodies have different responsibilities. Bodies’ not having separate responsibilities for regulation, supply, commissioning and so on runs other risks. She is quite right, however, that having such separation and so many different parties involved means we run risks.

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If people are ducking and diving to evade responsibility—I will come to that in a second—that is a risk too. There is no easy way to do this, but I am quite clear that bodies have specific responsibilities that they should live up to; I do not think that that is necessarily wrong, provided they all know what they are doing. This situation was particularly difficult.

Nearly two years had passed since the CQC identified serious safety issues at the hospital, which seems more than adequate notice of the problems. The CQC said that it could not allow the service to continue indefinitely or allow a new application to open services at the hospital until the risks to patient safety had been addressed. Ensuring continuity of services for patients immediately became a priority. By midnight on 30 September, eight patients had been transferred to facilities in Middlesbrough, two went to another facility in York and 15 were discharged home. Arrangements were made for some 400 out-patients to continue to receive services at other locations in York. That was a considerable undertaking for the local NHS and achieved under great pressure. It was, of course, not what patients needed or wanted. The change and speculation about what would happen was inherently unsettling.

The NHS had to get matters back to an even keel as soon as possible, and that is what has been happening since. As the hon. Lady said, there has been a recovery of the section 136 services at the hospital. The NHS now has an interim solution in the adaptation of Peppermill Court. The in-patient service for older men with dementia, formerly provided at Peppermill Court, will now be provided at Selby. TEWV started work this week on the development of Peppermill Court as an adult in-patient unit and intends the refurbished 24-bed in-patient unit to be completed by the summer. Out-patient clinics continue to be held at a number of locations in York, and TEWV hopes to move all out-patient appointments back to Bootham Park hospital later this month.

That is where we are, with one further caveat: the business of trying to find out what has happened and why. My understanding is that an external review has been taking place, involving a number of different bodies that have had responsibility and are now looking at this. It seems almost impossible for the review to be concluded without its findings being made public, which would be a good opportunity for people to examine exactly what has been done. I want to see that review’s findings. I want to see the questions that the hon. Lady has raised today answered, and I want a good, clear line of sight as to what has happened, how it happened and, as far as lessons learned are concerned, how to ensure that this could not happen again in the rest of the system, as she says.

Based on what the review says, I will have further thoughts about the questions the hon. Lady has asked. Until we see the review’s findings, we will not know how complete it is or the answers to all the questions. Let us see the review’s findings first. If it is plain that the review is inadequate and leaves things unsatisfactorily handled and dealt with, with questions still arising, we will need to have a conversation at that stage. It might be appropriate, after the review has concluded, to have a round table and use it as an opportunity to have that conversation. However, until I have seen the review’s findings, I cannot decide whether there is anything further to be done at this stage. I want to ensure that the

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questions are answered, and that there are ramifications across the system. We also want to make progress with the new hospital. Let us see what comes out of the review, and then we will meet again.

On the hon. Lady’s request for a meeting, I have just been handed a note—we had an email from her office on 15 January. We are now going through the invitation process but have not responded.

Rachael Maskell: I was chasing up.

Alistair Burt: If there has been correspondence that has not been answered, I apologise, but as the hon. Lady knows from my previous contact with her, she can come and see me, and we will sort that out as soon as we can.

Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): Order. I thank Members for a very important debate, but I am afraid time has beaten us, and we must now move on.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).

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Cycling: Government Investment

4.30 pm

Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered Government investment in cycling.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. As you may be aware, the debate was preambled by an online digital debate, supported by parliamentary outreach. Between us, we managed to reach more than 2.1 million Twitter accounts, the highest number ever for a digital debate. I wish to put on record my thanks to everyone who took part. It created a forum a lot of interesting and important questions about how we can deliver the Government’s ambition to support and promote cycling.

It is important to point out that the benefits of cycling reach across many different areas. There is a strong business and economic case for both local and national Government to invest in cycling. Sustrans has calculated that investment in cycling returns the equivalent of £9.76 for every £1 spent. Cycling also alleviates congestion and will help us cope with the forecast pressure on our roads due to population growth, particularly in northern cities—current estimates suggest a 55% increase in road congestion by 2040. Cyclescheme estimates that the national health service could save £2.5 billion if 10% of car journeys were made by bicycle instead, and that inactivity costs the United Kingdom economy £20 billion every year.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the many private sector companies that are encouraging cycling? For example, Evans Cycles, which is headquartered in my constituency, has done a fantastic job locally and nationally to ensure that we all get on our bikes and live a healthier lifestyle.

Chris Green: I agree entirely that the work of Evans and other organisations in the private sector is absolutely key to making sure that we have a healthy society. The contribution of responsible employers is vital to that.

For the reasons that I have highlighted and for many others, it is vital to have investment in cycling and to include it as part of an effective transport policy. I will touch on the benefits in my speech later. I wish to allow plenty of opportunity for other Members to make contributions as well, because I know that this is a really popular debate.

During the past five years, the Government have invested more in cycling than any of their predecessors, through cycling ambition grants and the local sustainable transport fund to name but two measures. I hope to see investment in cycling increase and continue on that trajectory. Despite the increase, more can always be done to improve the situation further. During the last Session, the Select Committee on Transport reported that although investment had increased, the splitting of funding between initiatives can make it difficult to be clear about the total budget for cycling. It was initially estimated at £2 per head, but with further investment it is now £4 per head of the population, compared with an estimated £75 per head for motorised transport.

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate, particularly as I invested in my fourth road bicycle this weekend, much to my wife’s

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chagrin—

[

Interruption.

]

Only my fourth. Will he reflect on the health benefits of cycling for a moment, considering that the British Heart Foundation has found that cyclists live an average of three years longer than those who take no exercise whatsoever? Admittedly, those extra three years are spent clad in skin-tight Lycra.

Chris Green: I am not sure that I want to comment on Lycra yet, but the health benefits of having an active lifestyle are well recognised.

I am now a member of the all-party cycling group. Its report called for the budget to be increased from its current very low level to a minimum of £10 per head, with the spending then increasing further to £20 per head of the population.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): Having been a member of the all-party group, which produced the report on how we “Get Britain Cycling”, I wonder whether my hon. Friend agrees with me, with the report’s findings and with the Select Committee on Health that the benefit of cycling is that active travel is the type of physical activity that people are most likely to sustain throughout their whole lives. We should really focus on that if we really are going to get Britain moving as well as cycling.

Chris Green: I absolutely agree, and this debate is a great opportunity to reinforce that message to the Minister.

The members of the all-party group are not the only ones who want investment at £20 per head; a Sustrans survey suggests that the public want to see investment of £26 per head on an annual basis. More important than pinpointing an exact figure for investment is ensuring that current investment provides good value for money and is adequately utilised by the main practitioner of the funds, which is local authorities. Making cycling ambitions a reality requires collaboration at all levels of government.

The Department for Transport is giving local authorities significant amounts of funding to improve their road infrastructure and to support cycling at a local level. That funding is not ring-fenced and allows local authorities to decide on and implement solutions that best suit their needs. I am pleased that the Government are encouraging all local authorities to have a cycling champion—an official to take cycling development forward in their area and to champion cycling in their area.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): My hon. Friend is making an important argument. With regard to the cycling champions and cycling in the north, does he agree that one of the biggest boosts to cycling in the north came from the Tour de France being held in Yorkshire? That boost has now continued with the Tour de Yorkshire being set up. Does he agree that that is pressing the need for cycling and giving a boost to tourism locally?

Chris Green: Fantastic events such as the Tour de France do a wonderful job in promoting cycling. I will mention the different aspects of cycling that we perhaps need to focus on a little bit more.

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Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con): Following the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy), I want to report that the route for the women’s cycling tour in June, which was announced today, includes a stage through my constituency. It is the first time that has taken place in Warwickshire. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) think it is a good idea for such events to be spread throughout the country, as it provides an opportunity to promote the benefits of cycling across the UK?

Chris Green: I absolutely agree. It is vital that we have those events across the country. Seeing the beautiful Yorkshire countryside was wonderful, and I am sure that we will be inspired by the countryside in Warwickshire as well.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): I feel greatly honoured not only to be able to participate in this debate, but to sit next to the former Sports Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), who was there when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire and who did so much to help promote cycling. Importantly, she also paved the way towards making sure that outdoor recreation, of which recreational cycling is a very important part, was fully integrated into our new sport strategy, which focuses on outcomes, including physical activity. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) agree that the new sport strategy in its integrated form will be a major boost in helping to achieve many of the things that he seeks to achieve?

Chris Green: I absolutely agree. It is so important that we integrate the strategies with other policies and the work that various Departments are doing. It is absolutely vital to have that integration, because things can be so much more effective in that way.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): Well done to the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate, and I declare my interest as a long-term cyclist. I have withdrawn my name from the speakers list to allow others to speak.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman to commend civil society as well? That includes the Rhondda Tunnel Society, which is aiming for a huge project to establish the longest tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists in the whole of Europe, connecting the Rhondda and Afan valleys as part of the massive network for cycling that we have in the south Wales valleys. It is a tremendous initiative, just like the one in the lower Llynfi, which is trying to connect up urban settlements along strip valleys. Will he commend all those who put their petitions and their weight behind those campaigns?

Chris Green: I absolutely agree. It sounds like a wonderful idea—imagine going through a tunnel and having a beautiful environment ahead of you. It is such a wonderful thing to see happening.

I was talking about cycling champions, and it would be interesting to hear from the Minister just how many cycling champions are now in place. I dare say that many people do not recognise their own cycling champion; perhaps local authorities have not always implemented the idea.

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As we move towards further devolution with the establishment of mayors—as a Greater Manchester Member of Parliament, I particularly appreciate that—we would all do well to follow London’s example of investing in infrastructure to make the roads safer for cyclists. In conjunction with that, we must ensure that our planning system makes cycling and walking an early consideration in any new street design, housing development or business park, and encourages local authorities to design road improvements with cyclists in mind. Although that is contained in the national planning policy framework as a mechanism for sustainable development, the existence of cycle lanes alone is not enough. The quality of cycle lanes in new developments can and should be improved.

A key factor in getting more people into cycling is the condition of roads and the availability of cycle lanes. Badly designed cycle lanes force cyclists to use the road. Too often, they are just half a path, and many cyclists choose to use the road because it is dangerous to weave in and out of pedestrians. Such paths also tend to stop at every junction, but cyclists want to maintain their momentum and not stop and start all the time.

Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. He talks about cycle lanes on roads. Does he agree that what we need includes investment in cycle trails, such as those around Cannock Chase? They are an excellent facility to encourage leisure cyclists and families.

Chris Green: Absolutely. We need a whole range. Emphasis on the roads is important, because people use them to go to the shops and so on, so there is a lot of functional utility to them, but we also need to encourage families to spend time together on their bicycles. It is a great way of having a sustainable cycling environment and culture.

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab): I, too, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. He gave the excellent example of cycle routes on main roads. Does he agree that in many areas, particularly residential ones, rather than dedicated cycle routes, what works well is quietening back streets to reduce through traffic? My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) explains how her local authority has done that. That makes the environment safe for cyclists and pedestrians without the need for dedicated cycle routes.

Chris Green: I appreciate that. It sounds like a great use of local initiative. We must be very careful about prescribing too much and telling local authorities, “This is what you must deliver and how you must deliver it.” They must reflect local circumstances and ideas for the local community, because they can make a huge difference.

Many cyclists see how much priority councils sometimes give to maintaining cycle lanes—if a cycle lane is unusable, is it really a cycle lane? We often see overhanging branches, impassable potholes, large puddles, parked cars and poor-quality surfaces, which are especially noticeable for those on racers. I have a racer, and I cannot use some cycle lanes. I have to go on the road, simply because of the nature of the bike. I wish I had four bicycles so that I could choose one appropriate to the road surface. All cycle lanes should conform to the Department’s design guidance, but too often it seems the bare minimum is done rather that what most cyclists

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want. The design should be centred on cyclists’ needs. It would be better if more people cycled—if those who made decisions about cycle tracks were cyclists, they would understand better what should be implemented. It is particularly important to have good cycle tracks for disabled people who are able to cycle and use a bike as a mobility aid, but find that the infrastructure is working against them.

As a cyclist, I am acutely aware of the lack of good-quality bicycle racks, which, by their presence alone, promote cycling. If we create the right environment, the cyclists will come. Our local authorities have a duty to provide an environment suitable to support and promote cycling.

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that good-quality cycle racks, in quantity, are important at railway stations so that people can interact with another form of transport that might take them to London or another city?

Chris Green: Absolutely. It is important that cycling is part of a daily routine, perhaps as part of a journey if not the whole journey. I was thinking earlier about Bolton station, a major station serving many of my constituents, who have to travel all the way through the station to one of the platforms to drop their bike off at the cycle rack. Then on the return trip, instead of just being able to just pick it up at the entrance and off they go, they must make an awkward journey through rush-hour passenger traffic. It is important to have the right facilities at railway stations.

Naturally, interest in cycling naturally peaks with the Olympics and the Tour de France, which generate a great deal of interest in cycling as a sport, butwe need to ensure that people feel that they can cycle as part of their daily routine. Good governance is essential in improving investment in cycling and the execution of that investment in local government and communities. Many hon. Members will be aware of the Government’s cycle to work scheme, which operates as a salary sacrifice employee benefit. Employers buy or lease cycling equipment from suppliers and hire it to their employees. Employees who participate in the scheme can save up to about 40% on the cost of a bicycle and cycling safety equipment. More than 600,000 employees have participated in the scheme to date. I have heard anecdotally that councils have a slightly lower take-up rate than the private sector, which is not only a concern for the health of council workers but is perhaps suggestive of councils’ enthusiasm for cycling.

The cycle to work scheme provides a mechanism to change the perception of cycling and sustainable travel and behaviour towards it. The Cycle to Work Alliance’s recent survey showed that 62% of participants were non-cyclists, novice cyclists or occasional cyclists before joining the scheme. Having joined, 79% of respondents described themselves as enthusiastic cyclists.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. In Pendle, a huge number of firms have taken advantage of the Government’s scheme. One is Carradice cycle bags in Nelson, in my constituency. It has seen a huge increase in the number of employees cycling to work thanks to the Government’s initiative, so it is important to continue it in the years to come.

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Chris Green: It is fantastic to hear about the impact of the Government’s scheme in the private sector, and about bosses encouraging people to live healthy lives on daily basis, which will make a difference to people. There will be all kinds of other benefits.

In setting out the process and timescales for the first cycling and walking investment strategy, the Government are seeking to ensure that local government and business partners design places and routes for people travelling by bicycle or on foot at a local level across the country. Members will be aware that funding for the strategy, which has not been done before, is to be allocated on the same basis as that for rail, motorways and main A roads, with £300 million dedicated to cycling and walking over the next five years.

Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Although a lot more people are cycling, which is good, does he agree that more effort needs to be made to ensure that people from black and minority ethnic communities and deprived communities also have that opportunity?

Chris Green: Absolutely. There is a perception that cycling is for young to middle-aged white men. Those who cycle in competitions and on the sporting side are representative of those who cycle in society as a whole, and we need to encourage people throughout society to cycle. That is why it is so important that London and our cities develop cycle routes.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. I share his passion. In Otley, we are proud to have the women’s road cycling world champion, the wonderful Lizzie Armitstead, who was nominated for sports personality of the year. We welcome the fact that we have the first women’s Tour de Yorkshire starting in Otley this year. We must use that to get more women and girls cycling both recreationally and for sport.

Chris Green: That sounds like a fantastic opportunity to promote women’s cycling. So much more can be and is, I am pleased to hear, being done to promote role models to show that more people from all kinds of backgrounds can and should participate in cycling, both on the recreational side and for its utility in daily life.

I emphasise that the strategy is about a desire for walking and cycling to become the norm for short journeys or as part of longer journeys. Cycling does not need to be reserved exclusively for exercise—in other words, people pursue it as a sport and have to spend a huge amount of money on a bicycle and wear Lycra. In fact, it is the non-Lycra side of cycling that we need increasingly to promote. Cycling should be seen not as an expensive sport, but as a normal activity that people can undertake while wearing normal clothes and on an affordable bicycle.

Through the promotion of cycling, the Government are creating a catalyst for attitudinal change towards modes of transport and an active lifestyle. Integrating cycling into routines for small journeys, whether that involves popping to the local shop for groceries or cycling to work each day, can have a profound effect on health.

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Sport England has reported that 27.7% of adults in England do less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. It is now feared that, for the first time, children’s life expectancy will be lower than that of their parents because of physical inactivity. Shockingly, one in six deaths is now linked to physical inactivity, which is on a par with smoking as a cause of death. Only yesterday, in the Select Committee on Science and Technology, we heard Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, giving evidence and describing us as living in an “obesogenic environment”—that does not sound very positive.

I hope that in this short time I have highlighted the considerable benefits of investment in cycling for the national economy, local government and community wellbeing and the considerable health benefits that people of any age, gender, fitness level, income or background can get from cycling. It is encouraging to know that, as a country, we are improving on our investment in and promotion of cycling. However, we must keep pressing the issue to avoid complacency and build on the achievements thus far. There is no quick fix or easy solution to create a change in cycling. We need strong leadership from central Government and commitment from local government. There is a great deal more that we can do to get Britain cycling.

I ask the Minister to respond by giving us an update on the Government’s cycling policy and by explaining his intentions and ambitions for the cycling and walking investment strategy, which will be published this summer, and what more the Government can do to ensure that the aim of a “cycling revolution” is achieved.

Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): Nine hon. Members have put in to speak, and we will try to get through as many as possible. I am therefore happy to impose a three-minute limit on speeches. The House is likely to divide at 5 pm, in which case the sitting will be suspended for 15 minutes if there is one vote, but if we can get back here earlier, we will start earlier.

4.53 pm

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I shall be brief to allow as many colleagues to speak as possible. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing the debate and on the very salient points that he made. This is the umpteenth debate that we have had in the House since I was elected in 1997, and I want my remarks to focus on the financial commitment to this agenda.

The report by the all-party group in the last Parliament was an important report that all the Back-Bench members signed up to. The Prime Minister declared that he wanted to see a cycling revolution in this country. The Minister is a man who, thankfully, has been in the job for some time, so he knows about it. I believe that he is sincerely committed to this agenda.

We made it clear that the essential components of a successful cycling strategy were political leadership and a sustained funding commitment. The hon. Member for Bolton West was partly right when he talked about the level of funding that the Government have now committed, but the figure that he referred to included London, and London massively skews the overall figures. The overall amount that we are currently being offered in terms of cycling investment is still little more than £1 per head per

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year, in contrast to the £10 per head per year that the all-party group report said was a starting point, leading to £20, which is equivalent to what most other European countries spend.

We will not deliver the cycling revolution that the Prime Minister spoke about without significant extra resources for cycling. My one request of the Minister is that he explain something that he and predecessors have not really been able to explain to me. We are talking about such a tiny amount of money—a fraction of his roads budget, for example, and a fraction of his overall strategic transport budget. All he would need to do is reallocate a very small amount of money that is already committed to other things—we are not asking for more money from the Treasury—to cycling, and he would deliver the cycling revolution that the Prime Minister says he wants, so my simple question for when the Minister responds is: why can they not do that?

Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): When the House divides, could I see the Minister, the shadow Minister and the Scottish National party spokesman here?

4.55 pm

Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing the debate and on his excellent speech. I declare an interest: I am a cyclist and I am a co-chair of the all-party cycling group. But as has already been intimated, the problem is that I am far too typical. The reality of cycling in the UK is that it is disproportionately the preserve of young to middle-aged males. We will be sure that we have done a half-decent job on cycling only when we have as many women as men cycling in our country, and we will know that we have done an excellent job only if the sight of women cycling with their children becomes far more routine than it is now.

The case for cycling is not some ill thought out, muddle-headed notion; it is hard-headed, practical and robust. As we have heard, the economic case is clear, particularly when it comes to utility cycling—by that I mean the daily commute or short journeys. A healthier population places a smaller burden on the NHS and, as has been said, people who cycle regularly in middle age typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to that of someone 10 years younger. That makes my hon. Friend about 25, I think—close.

There are so many advantages to cycling, but I cannot go through them all now. However, when we are calling for more funding, it is in reality a call for investment that over time will yield a good return for our society, for the taxpayer and for the planet. I believe that the Government are committed to increasing cycling participation. We have had very useful and constructive meetings. However, I gently suggest that funding sources for cycling are not as clear as they might be, because they are divided across various pots: the Highways England cycling fund, the Bikeability pot, the cycle city ambition grants, the access fund and the local growth fund. I invite the Government to clarify the available funding, so that we can be absolutely clear on what funding exists for cycling and what scope exists for improving it in our country.

The key ask, the bottom line, is that we will get a step change in cycling participation only if we invest in segregated highways on our urban arterial routes. Cyclists need that physical separation to feel truly safe. There is

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no way I would take my children out in a cycle trailer without one, and that is a shame. We need to look at segregation and at 20-mph speed limits in residential areas if possible.

I am very grateful for the work the Government have done so far. I urge them to go further and, in particular, to clarify the funding streams, because the prize for our society, for taxpayers and for the planet is great indeed.

4.58 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on initiating it and thank him as well.

Cycling has been a somewhat surprising and unsung hero of the emerging leisure industry in Northern Ireland. When I come to this Chamber to speak on anything, I always try to give a Northern Ireland perspective. I know that this is a devolved matter, but we are aware of the importance of cycling. We have come from the dark days to host the start of the famous Giro d’Italia, which went through my constituency, which attracted many people for the charity ride—those who perhaps were not ardent cyclists, but wanted to participate in the charity part—and which attracted many people to watch it as well. There is a plethora of outstandingly beautiful routes, including the Comber Greenway in my constituency. We have one route from Comber through to Dundonald. It was organised by and paid for by Sustrans. The great thing about it was that it gave people on bikes as well as pedestrians a chance to follow their sport in a safe fashion.

We have the Mourne coastal route and a whole host of coastal roads across the area of outstanding natural beauty in my constituency of Strangford. North Down Cycling Club regularly has its races up and down the Ards peninsula. Cycling provides a boost not only to the leisure industry, but to tourism. We are part of the fight against obesity.

Just this week, my party colleague Michelle McIlveen, an MLA and Minister for Regional Development, has launched what has been hailed by local cycle campaigners as a “cycling revolution.” It is always good in Northern Ireland—and, indeed, in Ireland—to say we are having a revolution that involves not guns, but cycling. We have spent some £800,000 on the trial scheme, which includes three cycling routes through Belfast. One route links the east to the west, which is important because it unites Unionists and nationalists. It brings the communities together. Cycling has not just been a leisure activity; it has united the communities of both sides of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Greenways campaigner, Jonathan Hobbs, hailed the plans as a “radical” shift in the right direction, commenting:

“These plans were produced by a dedicated Cycling Unit which is now working across government with a growing budget”.

Belfast Bikes recently received its 150,000th journey, so there is an impending cycle revolution. Cycling lanes in Belfast are clearly used, and cycling is a popular pastime for enjoyment and recreation.

All those things provide the momentum that has led to cycling taking off in Northern Ireland. As well as all the positive developments, the Stormont Assembly has an all-party group on cycling. Only by investing in safe cycle routes, as many of my party colleagues have done

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in Belfast, can we begin to promote cycling not only as a recreational activity, but as a viable alternative form of transport. I wholly support this debate and congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West on securing it. I look forward to hearing other thoughts from people across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where we are better together.

5.1 pm

Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.

5.22 pm

On resuming

Mrs Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) for securing this debate.

As a cyclist myself, although I do not wear Lycra, I am fortunate to live in Portsmouth, a compact, flat city in a beautiful setting, with the sea, two harbours and the Hampshire downs behind it. Portsmouth should be a paradise for cyclists, but in fact its casualty rate for cyclists is one of the highest in the country; indeed, it was second only to London in 2014. During a five-year period, 157 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on our streets, and quite rightly local cyclists are lobbying strongly for improvements to our roads, and for cultural change to bring that terrible figure down.

We have some great national groups fighting for cyclists, such as the CTC, but the figure I have just quoted comes from our excellent local cyclists group, the Portsmouth Cycle Forum. It has produced a strategy document called “A City to Share”. The vision of that document, and mine, is to make Portsmouth the cycling capital of the UK, and given what I said a moment ago about the city’s geography, people will see why that makes sense. The strategy document identifies five goals: a safer city; improved health outcomes; a stronger local economy; a better environment; and a more liveable city for everyone, not just cyclists.

Another source of inspiration for everyone is the Tour de France, which Portsmouth City Council hopes to bring back to our streets. We were lucky to be visited by the Tour over 20 years ago, and I know that the cyclists and organisers had a fantastic time touring our historic streets in Portsmouth and the beautiful Hampshire countryside. Since then, Portsmouth has seen a huge amount of renewal and the city would like to have le Grand Départ in 2019, to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings. Any help the Minister can give to ensure that that event comes to Portsmouth would be helpful, not least to tourism. Any help—financial or otherwise—would be great.

I hope that, through the access fund, it will be possible to get support for a thorough survey in Portsmouth, so that we can match up the vision set out in “A City to Share” with the city council’s road strategy. We need to do that because the roads in Portsmouth are under growing pressure.

Finally, while we are debating cycling here in the context of what the UK Government can do, I want to remind everyone that there are all sorts of cycling schemes operating across the EU. Having recently pointed Portsmouth City Council in the direction of one such

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scheme, called FLOW, I want to make sure that everyone is getting the best out of the various programmes in Europe. We can learn a lot from best practice on the continent but, as with many other areas of policy, I am not sure that we are yet very good at ensuring that we tap into all the resources that are available through the European Union.

5.24 pm

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this important debate and I look forward to working with him and all hon. Members to push this agenda forward.

I am very proud to represent a region that has clearly become the UK capital of road sport cycling, with the incredible success of the Tour de France being followed up by the Tour de Yorkshire. We also have the inspirational Lizzie Armitstead, who is from Otley and who has become the women’s road race world champion, having won the silver medal in the women’s road race at the London Olympics; in fact, hers was the first medal won by a Team GB athlete in the 2012 games. Of course, we also have the Brownlee brothers in the triathlon, one of the three disciplines being cycling. To see them out cycling inspires local people.

One message coming out very strongly today is that we need to invest in cycling, both at the sporting level and in terms of infrastructure and recreational cycling. They are linked, because one leads to the other, if the first is properly inspired. However, the infrastructure must be there.

The “bang for your buck” that comes from investing in cycling is really quite remarkable. The cost of staging the three days of le Grand Départ of the Tour de France was £27 million, of which £10 million came from a Government grant, which was much appreciated. The staggering boost to the UK economy from that investment was worth £130 million.

Regarding infrastructure, I was delighted that the coalition Government backed the Leeds and Bradford Cycle Superhighway. When that route is completed, it is expected that 9,000 trips will be made on it every single day. The coalition Government put in £18 million towards it. Again, that shows the change that such investment can make.

Of course, we need to make sure that the success in the sport of cycling, which is welcome, leads to more people just getting on their bikes to go to work, to school or to the shops. I pay tribute to the Leeds Cycling Campaign for the work it does, because that work is part of the real legacy when it comes to changing the culture in a society, which is what we need to do. We need education as well as investment in infrastructure.

Where we can have cycling lanes, we should have them, and we should plan them into both road schemes and light rail schemes. I want to see more of those schemes as well. However, where that is not possible we need more innovative solutions, such as the Superhighway and cycling-friendly routes across medieval cities.

My final plea to the Minister is this: will he back the four-day Tour de Yorkshire next year, because that event will make a huge difference and get even more people in our beautiful county and our wonderful country on their bikes, which is clearly what we all want to see?

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5.27 pm

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Bone.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this important debate. I wish to follow on from my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), who talked about women and children cycling. In my constituency, I have literally hundreds and hundreds of cyclists, but they are not families. Families are frightened to go out on bicycles. The most amazing world heritage site—the Derwent Valley Mills—is in my constituency, but cyclists cannot get to it. We cannot encourage tourists in, because they cannot get to it. To reach it, cyclists have to go up the main A6. There is no sensible place to put a cycle route, so we need an off-road, dedicated cycle route, but one that can be used by walkers and others as well, so that it is multi-use.

I have got a group of local people working towards plotting such a cycle route. They are working with all the local authorities, who are mainly on board, apart from Derbyshire County Council, which does not like to do anything in a Conservative area. Everybody else is on board.

We need that cycle route, so that we can encourage tourism into Belper and other places. We can get people cycling for leisure, instead of having to put their bikes on their cars to drive out into the countryside to go on the various trails. I do not have a cycle route in my constituency at all, which is a real deficit for people who genuinely want to get out and take their families out, without having to make a major journey to do it. They want to be able to just take their kids out for a cycle on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. That dedicated route would help that happen and encourage more and more people to cycle.

Mary Robinson (Cheadle) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this debate. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) on this point. It is great that we get the investment—in Greater Manchester there has been £40 million of investment in 100 km of cycleways, and there have also been smaller schemes, such as the cycle friendly district centres scheme—but it is crucial that we also have the feeling of safety. Perhaps we could increase driver awareness —their consciousness of cyclists on the road and their safety.

Pauline Latham: My hon. Friend is right that we need to raise awareness, but with a road such as the main A6, which is just a two-lane road with huge lorries—sometimes those lorries are coming from quarries and going all over the place—it is dangerous for anyone, whether man or woman, and definitely so for a child.

I implore the Minister to look at how we can get more people off the road in my constituency and on to cycle routes, because I know that there is demand. That would not only help the leisure cyclist, but commuters coming into or going out of Derby—some do commute out for work. Removing cyclists from the main road could benefit the whole population by making cyclists’ lives safer and helping prevent traffic congestion caused by cyclists weaving in and out. They can cause hold-ups. I would like to see that dedicated cycle route happen,

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so I hope that the Minister will give us a crumb of comfort that he might look at investing in that route in Mid Derbyshire.

5.31 pm

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP): It is a pleasure to serve for the first time under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this important debate, which is on an issue we can all get behind. Time does not allow me to go into a lot of detail, but the Scottish Government are committed to the largest transport investment programme that Scotland has ever seen. That includes investing in cycling infrastructure. Cycling is beneficial, not only for the local environment but for health and wellbeing, too. There were pilot schemes in Scottish towns between 2008 and 2012 under the “Smarter Choices, Smarter Places” programme. Under those schemes, which aimed to encourage cycling, it was found that attitudes towards the local community and neighbourhood became much more positive and ratings of the area improved, too.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating community initiatives such as CamGlen Bike Town in my constituency and organisations such as Healthy n Happy and Cambuslang Community Council on the work they do in promoting cycling and safe cycle routes?

Drew Hendry: I certainly will. I hope to mention briefly a couple of such schemes in my constituency, but there are many such schemes in all the nations of the UK, and they are to be congratulated. Studies have found that cyclists spend more in local shops. They are good at consuming locally, because they pass those places.

This is a life and death issue. I was pleased to be present when Sir Harry Burns, a former chief medical officer of Scotland, gave us a presentation on the causes of early death. We might expect those to include a range of diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, and those are important and should be tackled, but by far the biggest factor is a lack of exercise. Cycling is a great way to challenge that and to get people to be healthy again. We must encourage people to live healthier lives. In Scotland, cycling as a main mode of travel has seen a 32% increase since 2003. The UK Government published their own strategy in December, but I hope that they will also look at the successful work of the Scottish Government in this area.

Inverness aims to be Scotland’s cycling city. Some 5.6% of people make their journeys to work by bike. We have four out of the top 10 council wards in Scotland for cycling to work. Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey schools have received funding for projects through the Scottish Government’s “Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets” initiative, and that has also helped. Some 64,000 people have used the Millburn Road cycle route since November 2014, which is a massive indication of the importance of that route.

In my constituency, we have the Velocity cafe and bike workshop. It is a social enterprise running several projects, such as “Women’s Cycle to Health”. The bike academy teaches mechanics in its shop. The Go ByCycle project works with four Inverness schools and offers workplace sessions on bike mechanics and safer routes

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to encourage people to get on their bikes. Kingussie was selected by Cycling Scotland to help develop a new cycle friendly community award. Next week I will be attending the launch of a new vision, “Cycling INverness: Creating a City Fit for the Future”, and I hope the Minister will join me in welcoming that initiative. Finally, I make a plea to him to protect the salary sacrifice scheme. It is a tax-efficient and beneficial scheme, which helps create better outcomes for health and wellbeing. I hope he will commit to ensuring that it is protected.

5.35 pm

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this important debate and other Members on their contributions.

In the time I have represented Pendle, cycling has become an ever more important part of everyday life, whether that is as an activity that people participate in or through events that provide amazing spectator opportunities. In my maiden speech back in 2010, I made reference to the national road race championships, which showcased Pendle’s wonderful countryside and villages to potential future visitors. That major sporting event paved the way for similar events, such as the Colne grand prix that sees my home town centre turned into a race track for a night of racing every July. Most notably, stage 2 of the Tour of Britain last September showcased Pendle and Ribble Valley in all their glory.

Such events are more than just fun memories; they contribute to the local economy. The Tour of Britain itself brought more than £3 million into Pendle and Ribble Valley. Pendle is lucky to have many vibrant businesses linked to cycling, such as Hope Technology in Barnoldswick, which the Prime Minister visited in April 2013. It is a fine example of a firm that is benefiting from the increased interest in cycling in the UK. More than 2 million people now participate in cycling at least once a week. The interest is so great that the company has ambitious plans to build a velodrome to aid its research and development and to create an amazing facility open to the community. I think it would be the first velodrome built in the UK outside a major city.

I cannot let the opportunity pass without mentioning our Olympic hero and gold medallist, Steven Burke. His success at the London 2012 Olympics continues to be an inspiration to many aspiring riders, young and old, in Pendle. That is nowhere more evident than at the Steven Burke cycle hub, a 1 km enclosed floodlit cycle track that opened in 2015 thanks to funding from British Cycling and Sport England’s inspired facilities fund. From that excellent community facility, Cycle Sport Pendle continues to train the next generation of cyclists.

Cycling is of course much more than a spectator sport and an enjoyable pastime; it is a mode of transport. That is why I particularly welcome the Department for Transport’s announcement in December 2015 that £50 million would be provided to fund Bikeability training in our local schools. I had the pleasure of attending a Bikeability session at Sacred Heart Primary School in Colne, where I spoke to the young people involved. They told me how important it was to learn how to ride

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safely on our roads. Teaching young people to ride safely is important. The Government’s Cycle to Work scheme, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West mentioned, is also important.

I urge the Minister to ensure that we take the opportunity to improve our cities, towns and villages for cyclists, so that we continue to see an increase in the number of people taking to two wheels.

Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): The Front-Bench spokesmen have been gracious in reducing the time they will take, so I call Ruth Cadbury and ask her to be brief, please.