Last Thursday during business of the House, Henry Smith MP and Jacob Rees-Mogg Leader of the House of Commons spent a few minutes in what is a very high profile public place, setting out these criticisms of what they consider to be politicians that are working badly. Sadly that was a specific criticism of Crawley Borough Council by Smith and of socialist-run councils by Rees-Mogg. Clearly for many of us the mistakes and failures of the current Government, let alone going back to the days when Henry Smith was leading West Sussex County Council provided many opportunities for us to raise our own concerns or questions. However their criticisms have been recorded in Hansard which will be stored permanently. Let us hope that in the future when they are both presented with responses from other people that they will be willing to consider if such matters are very constructive. It is certainly the case that Henry Smith who has on a number of occasions been critical of the Crawley Borough Council, is not willing to allow people who ask him questions, to follow him on twitter. I was blocked a while ago and I am not alone in that although of course I am not his constituent. It seems very clear that we need all MPs to be willing to act in a credible way, particularly with those who live and work in nearby locations such as in Sussex and Surrey. Anyway here are his question and Jacob’s answer. The size of the reserves for West Sussex would possibly be worth checking and their call for more funds which no one would argue is inappropriate given how much the Government calls on local Councils to deliver services with very modest provision.
HS: In addition to previous generous support, the Government have recently granted Crawley Borough Council a further £5.6 million in funding for the latest period of covid-19 restrictions, yet this local authority, which unfortunately has a record of financial mismanagement and reserves of well over £20 million, is complaining that it is not enough. Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about ensuring that such irresponsible councils are audited?
JRM: My hon. Friend raises a really important point. I have just set out the very large amounts of money that are being made available, but some incompetent councils are not spending that money well. It is noticeable that they are often socialist-run councils that are not doing things properly, and he is right to ensure that they are held to account. Last year, the Government commissioned Sir Tony Redmond to undertake a comprehensive review into the quality of external audit, and the Government are considering its findings and will respond in due course.