HC Deb 15 February 1995 vol 254 cc990-1
10. Sir David Madel

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is planning to make any further statement on the revenue support grant for Bedfordshire for 1995–96.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

On 1 February, the House approved the Local Government Finance Report (England) 1995–96, which specified the basis of the revenue support grant for each authority. We have no plans to make any further statement on that grant for the coming year.

Sir David Madel

My hon. Friend will be aware of the representations that I have made to the Government about the spending limit of Bedfordshire for 1995–96. Will he confirm that Bedfordshire county council still has time to make a case for raising its spending limit for 1995–96, but that it is also within its power, and it is perfectly capable of doing so, to protect school budgets next year?

Mr. Jones

What my hon. Friend says about the proposals is perfectly true. I find it difficult to understand how the Labour and Liberal majority on Bedfordshire county council can possibly translate what is an allowance to increase its spending into an attempt to impose cuts on schools. That simply shows how antagonistic it is towards education.

Mr. Dobson

Does the Minister accept that the local government grant settlement, for which most Bedfordshire Tory Members voted a couple of weeks ago, will mean cuts in expenditure by Bedfordshire county council and Bedfordshire districts, such as Luton? The settlement: threatens £9 million cuts in Bedfordshire's schools, while at the same time forces up the council tax. Does that not mean that people in Bedfordshire, like people in Essex, will be forced to pay more and get less?

Mr. Jones

I must repeat what I said to the hon. Gentleman earlier, because he obviously did not listen the first time. Businesses in this country, whether small or large, have dedicated themselves to becoming more and more efficient year in, year out. I expect Bedfordshire county council, like other county councils and borough councils, to do the same.

Sir Graham Bright

Does my hon. Friend agree that before Bedfordshire county council, led by the Liberals and the Labour party, starts criticising and cutting, it should look at its own efficiency—in particular, at the fact that it is carrying about 16,000 surplus places within its schools?

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend makes a valid point about the need for local authorities to re-examine continually their spending priorities and their efficiency. I am struck by the fact that Bedfordshire county council, almost alone among county councils, has failed to supply its manpower figures to the Department for the past two years.

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