3. Mr. Robert Ainsworth
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what views he has received from the Audit Commission on his provisional proposals for distribution of standard spending assessments.
Is the Minister aware that in the document "Passing the Bucks", the Audit Commission says that many of the decisions taken on grant distribution are political and there is no adequate explanation for the criteria used? When will we end the year-on-year manipulation of the grant system? In April, people up and down the country will face cuts in their budgets and increases in their taxes. In Coventry, the average will be £57, with £3 million in cuts. When will we have fair taxes at the local level?
§ Mr. Curry
The hon. Gentleman is saying that the whole system of distribution—the standing spending assessment system—is rigged politically. The Select Committee on the Environment will report on that, and I will bet the hon. Gentleman that there will be no reference whatever to the rigging of the system. What is more, the Audit Commission does not say that.
It is perfectly legitimate to have a political argument about how much money is available for local authorities, but we shall not have a political argument about the mechanisms of distribution because we do our best to ensure that they are fair, dispassionate, objective and up to date. All the councils that have come to see me—58 councils have been through our doors in the past few weeks —have accepted that.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
I am delighted that there have been no representations to my hon. Friend. The city council in my area is delighted with its standard spending assessment, although, of course, the county council is not pleased and is grousing fit to burst. Does my hon. Friend accept that we who run our affairs properly are delighted?