§ 3. Mr. Clelland
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the effects on the services of Newcastle upon Tyne city council following the financial decisions he has taken for the year 1991–92.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robert Key)
I am satisfied that the settlement decisions are fair and realistic for all authorities. For Newcastle they mean a standard spending assessment of £1,000 per adult. Under our intended capping criteria, an increase in budget next year of up to 9 per cent. would be possible—more than enough for an appropriate level of service.
§ Mr. Clelland
Is the Minister aware that the standard spending assessment means little for the realistic budgets of local authorities? I am pleased that he nods in agreement with that comment. Is he aware that the city of Newcastle upon Tyne is facing £12.5 million in cuts? Does he imagine that such a sum can be found by making savings on paper clips? If not, can he name one area of the council's activities in which he could save one tenth of that amount? If he cannot answer that question, can he say why the Government should inflict such financial policies on councils, without making any assessment of the effect upon people?
§ Mr. Key
I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's concern, especially for law centres such as Benwell, and I have written to him on the subject. However, it has never been Government policy to tell local authorities how to manage their affairs. The hon. Gentleman invites me to identify 926 areas where savings might be possible. I should be very surprised if there were not some administration areas where savings could be made.