HC Deb 04 March 1997 vol 291 cc704-6
14. Mr. Heppell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the consultation process to determine the 1998–99 standard spending assessment. [17015]

Sir Paul Beresford

We propose to invite representatives of local government to discuss possible changes in standard spending assessments for 1998–99 in the usual way.

Mr. Heppell

Will the Minister make it clear during that consultation that if Nottingham were funded on the same basis as Westminster, band D council tax payers would not pay £809 a year but would get a rebate of £661?

Sir Paul Beresford

That is a possible question, but one could also ask why Nottingham cannot be as efficient as Westminster and save its band D council tax payers £135.47.

Mr. Allason

Does my hon. Friend recognise that there is a problem with SSAs in respect of tourism? Is he aware that there is a difficulty with standard bed nights, with visitor bed nights and with day visitors? When Torbay's local authority gains unitary status, will he at least reconsider the criteria on which day visitor numbers are counted so that they can be included with visitor bed nights?

Sir Paul Beresford

As ever, I shall consider all sensible suggestions. My hon. Friend's suggestion seems as if it may be one that we may examine carefully.

15. Mr. Simpson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on inequities in the current funding formula for local government; and if he will make a statement. [17016]

Sir Paul Beresford

What one authority considers an inequity, another often considers entirely justified.

Mr. Simpson

I understand how difficult it must be to have Mayfair and Park lane and the poverty associated with those areas in one's borough, but is not the unfairness of today's formula the fact that the real benefits tourists in Britain are the rich in the Ritz? They are the ones whom the Government's tax subsidises, at a cost to almost every other local authority in Britain and every other council tax payer.

Sir Paul Beresford

What the hon. Gentleman forgets is that the factor that he criticises in respect of Westminster, if adjusted, would necessitate a similar adjustment for Chester, York, Cambridge and Durham. He should recognise that, contrary to what has been suggested by Labour Front Benchers, one cannot gerrymander the system.

Mr. Congdon

Rather than whingeing, would it not be better if local authorities got on and managed their services better? In that context, will my hon. Friend encourage local authorities to place more elderly people in the private sector and hence save nearly £750 million a year, instead of discriminating in favour of their own homes?

Sir Paul Beresford

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—like many of us, he has to live with Croydon council. Many Conservative councils have overcome the difficulty that he describes by using the private sector, being imaginative and using lateral thinking.