§ 3. Mr. Miller
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proportion of local authority expenditure is represented by council tax collected in (a) Ellesmere Port and Neston and (b) Westminster. 
§ The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Urban Regeneration (Mr. David Curry)
Forty-three per cent. and 14 per cent. respectively.
§ Mr. Miller
Those are interesting twists of the official statistics. The Minister will recognise that Ellesmere Port and Neston borough has a better council tax collection rate than the city of Westminster and is better on planning times and a whole host of the measures set out by the Audit Commission, yet the council tax collected from residents in Ellesmere Port—
§ Mr. Miller
Is it the case that the council tax collected from residents of Ellesmere Port and Neston constitutes 33 per cent. of spending compared with 4 per cent. for Westminster? Is that not a disgrace and yet another Tory fiddle that disadvantages a well-run, Labour-controlled local authority?
§ Mr. Curry
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman got to his peroration in the end, albeit with some prompting. His figures are out of date, which is not surprising. The key statistic is that Ellesmere Port and Neston council sets a budget that is 20 per cent. higher than its standard spending assessment. If Westminster set a budget 20 per cent. above its SSA, it would have to fund 35 per cent. of its expenditure from the council tax. If Westminster set a budget 13 per cent. below its SSA and Ellesmere Port and Neston did the same, the borough could hand back £85 to band D council tax payers and would have to raise only 17 per cent. from council tax. If the Ellesmere Port and Neston council budget is so terrible, it is surprising that its Member of Parliament made no representations at the time of consultation.