HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 cc95-6
5. Mr. Illsley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he intends to take to ensure an equitable distribution of revenue support grant for 1998–99; and what proposals he has for future years. [4668]

The Minister for Local Government and Housing (Ms Hilary Armstrong)

We are discussing with the Local Government Association possible improvements to the calculation of standard spending assessment.

Mr. Illsley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. May I impress upon her the importance of achieving some redistribution of revenue support grant for the financial year beginning next April? I appreciate that she is talking to local government associations, but I hope that some action can be taken in the short term, with further consultation for future years, to try to get rid of the unfairness of SSAs. I know that my hon. Friend has received several representations that have produced ideas for redistribution and I hope that she will take the ideas on board.

Ms Armstrong

We are considering all the suggestions that are being made, both for the short term and for the long term. As my hon. Friend knows, we are committed to achieving as fair a distribution as possible. If, however, I took all the representations on board, I would have to work one against another because some are directly contradictory. We are determined to work to ensure that some of the gross unfairnesses that were apparent in last year's distribution are not apparent in future.

Mr. Chope

Everybody is in favour of equitable distribution of grant, but will the Minister tell the House which local authorities she considers are receiving too much grant? Before she joins the predictable chorus of "Westminster", will she accept that if Westminster had no grant, every other local authority would have an increase in grant of only 1 per cent. Local authorities throughout the country that think that Westminster's grant will be redistributed to them are living in a fool's paradise.

Ms Armstrong

I think that the hon. Gentleman has accepted the gross unfairness of the previous settlement, which we shall try to address.