HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 cc177-8
1. Mr. Keith Simpson

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to meet local authority representatives to discuss the effects of pay settlements in local authorities in Scotland. [6690]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Chisholm)

My right hon. Friend met local authority representatives on Friday 4 July, but pay was not on the agenda. The local authorities know that any increase agreed must be funded from their existing resources.

Mr. Simpson

Will the Minister share his views on how a £4 an hour minimum wage would be funded if the Scottish local authorities and the trade unions agreed to pay such a wage?

Mr. Chisholm

Pay awards are matters for local authorities within their allocated resources. Clearly, the substantial increase announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in the Budget—£89 million for education—will help local authorities considerably next year. Adherence to the best value regime, which we are promoting as a key plank of our policy, will help local authorities greatly.

Mr. Gorrie

Can the Minister assure us that, within the budgetary constraints imposed on councils this year and next year, councils will be able to fulfil their statutory requirements?

Mr. Chisholm

Councils will be able to fulfil their statutory requirements and, because of the Budget, will have extra resources for education. We stand by our election pledge to make education our number one priority.

Mr. Welsh

As local government is one of Scotland's biggest employers, surely Labour's continuing of the Tory policy of self-financing pay awards must lead to service cuts or higher unemployment. How many jobs will be lost or services cut as a result of this policy?

Mr. Chisholm

We said at the election that we would abide by the public expenditure guidelines that we inherited, for years one and two. We have found substantial additional resources for education, and we are expecting efficiency savings in local government from the best value agenda.

Dr. Fox

Is not the truth that the £4 deal is about Labour councillors buying off the trade unions in case they have to turn to them for support when it comes to running a Scottish Parliament, should one ever be established? Does not this mean that the ambition of Labour's second-raters will be paid for with the jobs and services of the ordinary people of Scotland?

Mr. Chisholm

The simple answer to that is no. The agreement is between local authorities and the trade unions and has nothing to do with the Labour Government. Labour and other authorities know full well that any pay award must be funded from within existing resources.

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