HC Deb 16 February 1994 vol 237 cc941-2
13. Mr. Alton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to the standard spending assessment formula used to determine local government spending in Liverpool.

Mr. Curry

Liverpool's standard spending assessment is calculated according to the formulae set out in the local government finance report for 1994–95, which was approved by the House on 3 February.

Mr. Alton

How can the Minister justify a formula that leads to children at risk in Birmingham being allotted £5,000 per head, whereas in Liverpool the sum is only £800 per head? How can he justify a formula that leads to a city that has been afforded objective 1 status by the European Community losing about £17 million from its assessment in the current financial year? Whereas local authorities across the country are receiving an average increase of more than 3 per cent., Liverpool will have a reduction of more than 1 per cent. In the circumstances, is the Minister now in a position to respond to the representations made to him by all the political parties on Liverpool city council? They are still awaiting a reply.

Mr. Curry

The hon. Gentleman would know a little more about the justification for the standard spending assessments had he been in the House when we debated them, and had he voted on that occasion. He was not here. It is not my job to compensate for his previous absence. The SSA system has been worked out objectively; it is a formula-based system, a means of dividing a fixed cake. The fact that Liverpool gets lots of benefits from other schemes is not relevant to the consideration. I told Liverpool clearly that if its representatives wished to discuss the way in which we took the SSA system forward I should be perfectly willing to do that. I have made that offer to all the councils whose representatives have come to see me. This year's settlement was agreed by the House in the hon. Gentleman's absence.

Sir Thomas Arnold

Are the findings of the 1991 census now incorporated fully into the SSA formulae?

Mr. Curry

Yes they are. In future years, the population estimates will be included until there is another census that will enable us to incorporate the actual figures. That is part of the continual updating of the system.