HC Deb 04 March 1997 vol 291 c704
13. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the amount of standard spending assessment allocated to Warwickshire county council in each year since 1993. [17014]

Mr. Curry

Warwickshire county council's SSA has increased from £267 million to £279 million since 1993–94. During that period, there have, of course, been changes in the responsibilities of county councils, in particular in relation to police and to community care.

Mr. Pawsey

I thank my hon. Friend for his comprehensive answer, which clearly shows that spending on education will rise and that spending on the fire service will go up by about £800,000, or 8 per cent. Despite those substantial increases, does he agree that it is time the outdated, clumsy SSA procedure was abandoned for something fairer and more intelligible?

Mr. Curry

My hon. Friend may be interested to know that every local authority that makes representations about its SSA thinks that the system is unfair to it, and that whatever proposals it has are justifiable on entirely objective criteria. We have to find a system that we can keep up to date and that distributes resources effectively; we then need efficient local government.

Mr. Olner

The Minister knows that Warwickshire is a very efficient authority, as the district auditor has said. The Minister also knows that over the past three years Warwickshire has had to go over cap to provide its services. Will he assure us that when the authority sets its budget this year, and has to go over cap again because the Department has not taken into account the education disregard, the Government will allow it to do so?

Mr. Curry

When a local authority sets a budget over the cap, it can explain its reasons to the Government. We take them into consideration in determining whether to accept the higher budget or to require something lower. The same will happen again this year.