HC Deb 04 March 1997 vol 291 cc703-4
11. Mr. John Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to review the assessments of the needs of rural areas in the standard spending assessment formula. [17012]

Mr. Curry

We reviewed it last year and we have no plans to review it this year.

Mr. Greenway

That reply notwithstanding, does my right hon. Friend agree that the resources allocated to most rural district and county councils are substantially lower than those given to metropolitan councils? The Labour party can whinge and moan all it likes about resources for London boroughs, but does it not have a lot to learn from smaller councils about efficiency and managing on low resources? When can people in rural areas expect the same funding for their schools and other services as urban areas have had for years?

Mr. Curry

My hon. Friend represents a rural community, as I do, and he knows that we reviewed the system last year and were told that it was about right. In the circumstances, we maintained it; but it is absolutely true that too often metropolitan areas do not recognise that delivering services to sparsely populated areas is an expensive business. I will make sure that we continue to assess their needs objectively and meet them.

Mr. Tony Banks

Why do Conservative Members point at us as though Opposition Members do not represent rural areas, when many of us do? Does the Minister realise that part of my constituency, from Wanstead Flats to Epping Forest, is very rural? What recognition do we get for adding to people's delight at being able to visit rural areas? What has happened to the cattle of Wanstead Flats?

Mr. Curry

I have visited the hon. Gentleman's constituency, although not in an agricultural capacity. If he wishes to visit my constituency, I would be delighted to show him around; he might then understand the difference between countryside and countryside.