Trudy Dean's response to Paul Carter's speech on fair funding at Kent County Council on 26th January
I'd like to congratulate Mr Carter on his opening speech with which there was very little content that I could disagree. I think Mr Latchford got it absolutely right, when he responded, that what we are talking about today is the response of a country that wants to see a civilised way of funding those who are most vulnerable in our country. And, on that theme, I would like to ask Mr Carter if he's prepared to write today to Mrs May, and I hope all the other Leaders here would support him, to disassociate ourselves with the announcement this morning from the so-called Leader of the so-called Free West World that he's prepared to consider a return to torture, and that he would leave Mrs May under no misapprehensions that this authority is entirely opposed to that, and would oppose any move on the part of the Great British Parliament to have anything to do with it and in any way facilitating it. I would welcome the support of all the other Leaders in this Chamber for such a move. ( All leaders subsequently agreed to sign this letter.)
To move on to the question of the budget, Chairman, as you know I've been around a long time and fair funding is the Holy Grail of Local Authorities. It's a Holy Grail in the sense that it's been sought for very long and never achieved. Both the Conservative Governments and the Labour Governments have said in opposition that it is something that they want to see, will work very hard to achieve but in Government have done nothing about it at all for many, many years.
I am confident that Mr Shipton's contribution to that debate at Government will be a good one; they could scarcely have a better advisor. ( Mr Shipton is a KCC Finance officer assisting with the development of the new formula.) However, I'm sceptical about what might be achieved. Members in this Chamber are already reflecting what always happens because with any fair funding reallocation there are winners and there are losers. And Chairman, we have to be big enough to acknowledge that there will be losers who cannot be defended and I haven't heard very much of that in this Chamber today.
I would like to completely re-echo what Mr Cowan said. Last November the Government made this astonishing announcement that the lion's share of the Local Growth Fund was to go to those regions due to have Elected Mayors. I'm sure that Kent County Council's Cabinet Members were no doubt very interested to hear from Andrew Percy, responsible for the Northern Powerhouse, that their reasoning behind that was, quote: "where there are devolution deals in place we know there is a degree of accountability." So, there isn't any degree of accountability in this Chamber, Chairman. Only if we have somebody who wears a red fur-lined cloak and a gold chain. What has that got to do with deprivation, or with a past delivery record or value for money or more importantly than all of those, to need?
How are we to work a system of local services to deal with the most needy within our society when we base our taxation on a system which is not related to the ability to pay and is not related to service demands that we have? I return once again to the fact that there is no other way of funding social services other than through National Insurance; it is a national burden which the nation should bear. Similarly, there is no way in which we can address local authority demand through business rates which are not related to those services and do not reflect the needs of the society that we have here.
The unfairness needs to be replaced by openness and transparency, we need to understand how the formula works, which we have never been able to do so far, that is the final test.
Trudy Dean is Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Kent County Council and County Councillor for East Malling, Larkfield and West Malling.