MANY of the most vulnerable members of our community rely and the services provided by local councils.

Children who need transport to school; the frail or ill being helped by a carer, or adults with learning disabilities.

But local government finances are facing a massive squeeze and that’s why, last week, I led a debate in the Commons to hold the Government to account.

Councils’ spending power has been slashed by 28.6 per cent in real terms since 2010, according to the National Audit Office, but demand for key services is still growing.

Funding through grants and business rates has fallen by £4.1bn since 2015 thanks to the Conservatives, and small increases in council tax obviously can’t make up for a gap of that scale.

All this has led to financial instability in councils of all levels, including Vale of White Horse District Council.

Earlier this year the then Conservative administration pushed through a budget that will see the money run out in four years.

There is not enough money coming in to fund the basic statutory services that the council is expected to deliver. It is eating into its reserves just to keep key services afloat.

And the local Tories’ financial mismanagement has made the situation even worse: an outsourcing agreement that was meant to save the Vale £9m. is going to wind up costing the taxpayer money. One contract was taken back in house a few months ago at a cost of more than £600,000.

Our newly elected councillors face an uphill battle to turn the situation round. I am glad to report that they are taking the situation very seriously and already looking for ways to run things better.

Adult social care is in a precarious position, and the scale of the problem is enormous. Demand is increasing, as people live longer and often needing more expensive care.

There is a growing funding gap: £3.6bn by 2025 according to the Local Government Association. Despite all of this, the Conservatives still haven’t published the anxiously-awaited social care green paper which might at least give them a sense of the direction policy is going to move in.

And then there’s children’s social care, on which a staggering 91 per cent of local authorities overspent in 2017–18.

Local government is vital – it’s at the coalface where Government policy meets real people. The Tories are desperately distracted by their circus of a leadership campaign, but out here in the real world our communities are on the brink. Working with our excellent Lib Dem councillors I will continue to fight for a fair deal for local services.