On Monday 4 the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire was questioned by MPs. He was asked about funding for local government and children’s services. Daniel Kawczynski MP raised the issue of homelessness in shire counties, saying that rural areas simply do not have the resources to deal with the problem. Trudy Harrison MP asked about protecting rural areas as banks close. High Streets Minister Jake Berry responded to say that the Government is supporting the Post Office banking framework to ensure customers will maintain face-to-face banking services. Elsewhere on Monday, MPs debated school funding. Daniel Kawczynski MP reminded those present that there is a huge difference between funding for schools in rural areas and in urban areas. Tim Farron MP, Nick Herbert MP and Laurence Robertson MP said that despite changes to the national funding formula, schools in their constituencies still suffered.
On Wednesday 6, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee announced an inquiry into local government finance. The Committee will examine whether current funding for local government is able to meet demand for services now and in the future. Written evidence may be submitted until 17 April.
During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday Tim Farron MP asked the Prime Minister to meet him to discuss how banks have ‘taken without giving’ for too long, and how customers can be compensated for the recent closure of branches. The Prime Minister appointed Robert Goodwill MP, a farmer, as Agriculture Minister following George Eustice’s resignation. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he was ‘delighted’ at the decision.
On Thursday 7, during questions to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Norman Lamb MP asked what steps the Government was taking to improve mobile phone coverage across the UK. Digital Minister Margot James MP replied that the Government was looking to strengthen the requirements on landowners to allow access to their land for the infrastructure needed to improve signal. In response to a similar question from David Duguid MP, James pointed out several initiatives: £200 million for the accelerated roll-out of full fibre broadband announced in the last Budget and £1.8 billion invested to ensure that 95 per cent of the country has access to superfast broadband. Elsewhere, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire attended the Local Government Association councillors’ forum where he faced questions from attendees on no deal Brexit planning.
On Monday 11, MPs will put questions to Damian Hinds the Education Secretary. Maria Caulfield MP has tabled a question on funding for rural schools. Later, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee meets to hear evidence on local authorities’ children’s services.
On Tuesday 12, Fiona Bruce MP has secured an adjournment debate on the future of community hospitals. Elsewhere, there will be a debate on the interdependence of modern farming and the environment in Westminster Hall, and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Small Shops will meet to discuss the Spring Statement. The Treasury Committee will hear evidence from the author of the Access to Cash Review, published last week. In the House of Lords, the Rural Economy Committee and the Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee will both hold private meetings.
On Wednesday 13, the Chancellor delivers his Spring Statement. There will also be a general debate on housing in the House of Commons main chamber.
On Thursday 14, the Lords will debate levels of council tax in England for 2019-2020.
On Friday 15, the Green Belt (Protection) Bill has its second reading, as does the Banking (Cash Machine Charges and Financial Inclusion) Bill.
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