HC Deb 25 July 1990 vol 177 c446
1. Mr. Chris Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has made any assessment of spending needs of local authorities for the coming financial year 1991–92; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Chris Patten)

I refer the hon. Member to the statement that I made to the House on 19 July.

Mr. Smith

The Secretary of State will probably recall that on 25 April he said that he would reconsider the standard spending assessment calculations for next year in the light of local authority representations. He will also probably recall that his Minister of State said on 12 July that he would not reconsider the standard spending assessment system. Which of the two right hon. and hon. Members is right?

Mr. Patten

We have always made it entirely clear that we are prepared to consider fresh evidence on the methodology that underlies the new grant distribution formula. That has been, and remains, our position. We shall consider fresh evidence and make our proposals in due course.

Mr. Ward

When my right hon. Friend comes to consider spending needs for the coming year, will he ensure that councils that have not really bothered to try to collect the community charge do not receive any special recompense? Will he take this opportunity to congratulate Poole borough council, which has collected 97 per cent. of the community charge—the highest in the country?

Mr. Patten

The collection figures of the more competent local authorities are pretty good. I congratulate the elected members and officers in my hon. Friend's local authority on the record that they have set. Overall, the figures for collection of the community charge are about the same as those for domestic rates in their last year.

Mr. Pike

Does not the Secretary of State now agree that there is overwhelming evidence that many of the SSAs are wrong; and will he give an assurance that action will be taken to help county councils such as Lancashire, so that it receives a fair allocation of Government resources with which to meet the needs for essential services of the community that elected that council?

Mr. Patten

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said about SSAs, but I believe that several local authorities, including Lancashire county council, have not been providing value for money.