HC Deb 26 May 1993 vol 225 cc915-6
9. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the respective levels of central Government grant per household to the London boroughs of (a) Hackney and (b) Wandsworth.

Mr. Robin Squire

The amount of external support—that is, revenue support grant plus non-domestic rates plus inner-London education grant—per household is £3,159 for Hackney and £1,984 for Wandsworth.

Mr. Bowis

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show yet again that poor quality of service and high costs, such as apply in the Labour borough of Hackney, have nothing to do with the level of Government grant and everything to do with the failure to improve services and efficiency? If local authorities want to emulate Conservative boroughs such as Wandsworth, they should bring in efficiency savings, cut out fraud and stop Labour councillors claiming expenses at the rate of £300 a week, or £15,000 a head a year, money which would be better spent on people in need in their areas.

Mr. Squire

My hon. Friend, who is very knowledgeable on these matters, made a number of telling points. He might also have pointed out that local authorities could also emulate the example of Wandsworth council in its collection record for the community charge. Hackney, in particular, has a poor collection performance: in the past two years, it was 53 per cent. and 57 per cent.; in the current year, it expects to collect only 91 per cent.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Minister accept that although he and his hon. Friends may wish to concentrate on a few examples of local authorities in London, the people who are informed about local government and councillors of all persuasions in urban areas of England outside London are convinced that the Government's disregard for unemployment and economic reality in their calculation of grants to local authorities is little better than corrupt?

Mr. Squire

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman spoilt his question in the last part of it. As he knows, the Government are carefully reviewing the standard spending assessments and we are receiving submissions from councils of all political parties. We are carefully considering those submissions and meeting councillors as well. There is no question of the current system being corrupt. It is trying to do what is arguably absolutely impossible, which is to deliver a distribution mechanism that is approved by all local authorities. We seek to make it recapture the inevitable expense faced by authorities. The system does that at present, and if it can do it even better in future, I shall be very pleased.