HC Deb 27 March 1990 vol 170 cc198-200
6. Mr. Spearing

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what criteria he adopted for determining expenditure on secondary education within the standard spending assessment of each local education authority.

12. Mr. Bill Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science on what basis the 1990–91 standard spending assessments for education were calculated.

Mrs. Rumbold

The education component of the standard spending assessment is distributed among authorities principally on the basis of the number of pupils and students in each block of the assessment. The distribution also involves certain other factors that take account of the different circumstances of different authorities. In the case of secondary education, the relevant group comprises pupils aged 11 to 15 in each authority. Full details can be found in the revenue support grant distribution report.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Minister agree that the SSA exercise is unrealistic in any case? Is she aware that the London borough of Newham has had to cut expenditure viciously to approach its SSA figure but has nevertheless had to spend £7 million in what the Secretary of State would call excessive expenditure? Is she aware that Norfolk education committee has also had to spend £7 million of what the right hon. Gentleman would call excessive expenditure? Is not it time that the right hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) and the hon. Member for Newham, South got together and took the advice of the respective friends, local parents and teachers urging them to protest against the Secretary of State's uninformed, damaging and irresponsible proposals?

Mrs. Rumbold

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has much to complain about. As it happens, Newham benefits from the increased weightings for additional educational needs and from the area cost adjustment in the revised methodology for the educational element of SSAs. In other words, his authority is doing rather well out of the new system compared with the old.

Mr. Michie

Given the Minister's unsatisfactory reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and the fact that the Minister and the Secretary of State have completely ignored representations from Sheffield city council and, indeed, many Tory-controlled authorities about the methods used to work out the standard spending assessments, should not the Secretary of State now have the courage to stand up for the children of Britain and argue with his colleagues that they ought to scrap the poll tax?

Mrs. Rumbold

Sheffield has been a significant overspender on education in the past and its expenditure per pupil has been considerably larger than most. None the less, its standard spending assessment will allow £150 million for spending on education, which should be perfectly adequate.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Does my hon. Friend accept that the present system of putting money into schools—through local government finance—is not working well, particularly in the case of capital expenditure? Does she accept that, in the longer term, we shall have to consider direct funding for education from the Exchequer, while retaining local control?

Mrs. Rumbold

I think that my hon. Friend knows already that the Government have no plans for such a move. The money currently spent through the local education authorities, with the support of the Government and of the community charge payers, would have to come from somewhere. Subtracting that money would not leave community charge payers in a better position.

Mr. Robert Banks

My hon. Friend will be aware that many secondary school buildings constructed in the 1960s have flat roofs, which are a pain in the neck because they leak constantly. Will she examine the criteria to see what can be done to provide special financial assistance to enable that design fault to be corrected?

Mrs. Rumbold

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I share the view that the flat roofs of buildings constructed in the 1960s have proved very unsatisfactory. In saying that, I refer not just to education buildings but to buildings throughout the public sector. When we consider next year's assessment for capital expenditure, that matter will be taken into account.

Mr. Straw

Why have Ministers set education spending levels so low that if authorities were to meet them thousands of teachers across the country would have to be sacked? Why are Ministers getting ready to poll tax cap authorities spending well under £2,800 per secondary pupil while they are ready to subsidise children at private schools, such as the one to which the Secretary of State sends his child, which charge more than £4,000 per pupil? Why do we have to put up with that double standard, whereby Ministers are ready to put at risk and undermine the education of other people's children in a way in which they would never put at risk the education of their own children?

Mrs. Rumbold

The hon. Gentleman has totally failed to understand that the new standard spending assessments do not take into account exactly the same factors as the old grant-related expenditure assessments. That is perhaps not surprising as it is quite a difficult sum. It is quite wrong, and totally misleading, to say that the spending for 1989–90 can in any way be compared with the spending for next year. For example, the debt charges are not taken into account in the standard spending assessments, whereas they are taken into account in the grant-related expenditure.

There has not, as yet, been any suggestion that there will be charge capping.

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