HC Deb 23 November 1972 vol 846 cc1510-2
21. Mr. Lamborn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will give urgent consideration to restoring the minor works allocation to its 1971–72 level, in order that the Inner London Education Authority and other education authorities in older urban areas can prevent further deterioration in standards in old and ageing schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

School rolls in Inner London and many other large cities will be static or declining in the mid-1970s and their reduced minor works allocations for 1974–75 reflect this. I have allocated about £6.5 million in the major building programmes for 1972–75 for the replacement of 47 old primary schools in inner London.

Mr. Lamborn

Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that in dealing with the older urban areas it is no use equating the subject with the movement of population? The minor works allocation for the inner London area in 1974–75 is half the figure that it was up to 1971–72, and in terms of what work can be done for the money it is probably under a quarter. In the inner London area there are still 300 Victorian primary schools, many of which still have outside, unheated toilet accommodation, and many improvements in such schools have had to be postponed as a result of cuts in the minor works programme.

Mrs. Thatcher

But the capital works building programme is mainly a basic needs programme, and therefore must be related to the increased numbers or otherwise in the area. The older urban parts of large cities benefit very much from the primary school improvement programme, and this has been the case with the inner London Education Authority.

Mr. Latham

In view of her reply to an earlier question and her declared belief in local democracy, will the right hon. Lady consider giving local education authorities discretion to spend money on what they may regard as more important local educational projects, and, indeed, to divert to such projects money which would otherwise be spent on the proposed Fanfare for Europe?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think that that would get anybody very far. There are pilot schemes in five local education authorities involving block capital allocations for everything except the primary school improvements programme. That number will be increased to 24, and we shall see how a system of block capital allocation works before we go any further with it.

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