HC Deb 20 November 1979 vol 974 cc192-3
6. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make additional funds available to improve sub-standard school buildings in County Durham.

Mr. Macfarlane

The school building allocations for Durham for 1979–80 and 1980–81 total nearly £2 million. It is open to the authority to make a bid for additional resources, but I cannot promise at this stage any increase in its allocation.

Mr. Watkins

Is the Minister aware that there are some schools in county Durham where both teachers and pupils are making what can only be described as heroic efforts in appalling conditions? I instance the schools at Benfieldside and Consett, in my constituency. Is he aware that it is only by the provision of additional funds that the buildings can possibly be brought up to any kind of reasonable standard?

Mr. Macfarlane

So far, we in the Department have not received any further bids for any further expenditure. Although I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that it is very much a matter for the local authority, I fear that, if he has any deep seated anxiety about it, he should write to the Department about it right away and I shall look into it.

Mr. Armstrong

Will the Minister bear in mind that the roofs-over-heads policy, which has been pursued by successive Governments, has hit Durham county very hard, as the school population there has been static, and indeed has diminished in some areas as a result of migration. Therefore, it has suffered as a result of the lack of resources. When he receives the extra demand for resources, as he indicated in his answer to my hon. Friend, will he give favourable consideration to it?

Mr. Macfarlane

I think that that largely depends upon our individual interpretation of "favourable consideration". I obviously cannot promise—as the right hon. Gentleman fully understands—any definite increase. Capital programmes cannot be exempted from the general need to stabilise public expenditure. I understand that in Durham the rolls in secondary education do not begin to fall until the end of the mid-1980s, if I may phrase it like that. Certainly, every bid which is received from any education authority will be reviewed accordingly. However, I cannot give any positive assurance here and now.

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