HC Deb 12 March 1991 vol 187 cc791-2
2. Mr. McCartney

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what effect he calculated the standard spending assessment for 1991–92 will have on the education service.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

Education's share of the 1991–92 grant settlement is 16 per cent. higher than this year's settlement. That will allow any well-managed local education authority to make good progress in implementing the reforms and providing a better quality of education for our children.

Mr. McCartney

Is not it the case that the so-called 16 per cent. increase is a 16 per cent. increase on the reduced budget of the previous year? Local authorities are forced to make cuts because of the standard spending assessment. Will the Secretary of State assure local authorities that there will be no need to sack teachers because of local authority expenditure cuts? Will he come to my constituency and see the effect of local authority expenditure cuts brought about by his Department's policies?

Mr. Clarke

The answer is no, on all points. Education spending is now 40 per cent. per pupil higher than it was 10 years ago, over and above inflation. The increase in the standard spending assessment is a very real increase compared with last year's, which itself was an increase on the previous year. Authorities such as Wigan borough council had a 19 per cent. increase in their total standard spending assessment, but Wigan is a consistently wasteful and overspending authority. I very much hope that when it gets within reach of setting a serious budget it will not cut its education provision, which is so essential.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Does my right hon. arid learned Friend agree that even the 16 per cent. increase in the money allocated to authorities such as Lancashire county council will not improve the education of children in Lancashire? The authority employs administrators and teachers according to a 50:50 ratio. The people of Lancashire demonstrated clearly what they think of the chairman of the education service by giving her only just over 4,000 votes at the recent by-election.

Mr. Clarke

I agree with my hon. Friend, but Lancashire does not top the league in terms of the relationship between administration and classroom spending. At least one local education authority employs more people in its central services than in all its classrooms put together. There is a huge discrepancy. If councils such as Lancashire have to make economies in certain areas, that is one which they should consider.