HC Deb 04 February 1997 vol 289 cc788-9
9. Mr. Amess

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the calculation of the element allowed for fire services in the standard spending assessments for Essex. [12509]

Mr. Curry

As I announced last week, the fire element of the standard spending assessment for Essex is £35.1 million for 1997–98—an increase of 4.6 per cent. on the same element for 1996–97, and higher than the national average of 4.2 per cent.

Mr. Amess

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is widespread concern throughout Essex at the way in which the Labour and Liberal-controlled Essex county council is trying to reorganise local fire services? Does he regret that some local politicians are unfairly trying to blame the Government for that? Does he recognise that local residents under no circumstances want Leigh-on-Sea fire station to be closed?

Mr. Curry

Essex county council has done very well over successive years from changes in SSAs. Indeed, it has had significant additional funds. The fact is that the county can increase its budget by £19.5 million. The fire element increase is £1.5 million. None of that is hypothecated. If it chooses to do so, it could give priority to its fire service. The decision not to do so would be entirely that of local councillors.

Mr. Olner

While the Minister is considering the problems in Essex, will he turn his mind to the problems in Warwickshire—

Madam Speaker

Order. Not today, thank you. Perhaps tomorrow.