HC Deb 03 February 1998 vol 305 cc829-30
4. Mr. Burstow

How many and what proportion of local authorities with responsibility for education, are receiving less than the amount that has been passported through the capping regime to raise standards in schools as a result of the increase in revenue support grant adjusted for changes in nursery voucher funding and increased national non-domestic rate. [24891]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

One hundred and sixteen out of 150 local education authorities—or 77 per cent.—have an increase in revenue support grant and NNDR entitlements that is less than the increase in their 1998–99 standard spending assessment for education.

Mr. Burstow

Before Christmas, the Deputy Prime Minister told the House that the cost of extra spending on education this year would not fall on the council tax payer. Will he confirm that the figures that he has given show that the only way in which the vast majority of councils will be able to spend extra money on education to protect our school budgets this year will be by cutting social service budgets or increasing the council tax?

Mr. Raynsford

As the hon. Gentleman will know only too well, the increase in education spending—£835 million—has been fully matched by grant. That was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister.

As the hon. Gentleman also knows, this Government inherited a framework from the last Government that envisaged a real-terms increase in the contribution of local charge payers, because of their policy of reducing grant below the level of total standard spending. We have not worsened the position, and I remind the hon. Gentleman that we have ensured that the education increase has been matched in full.

Mr. Yeo

The Minister seems to be modelling his approach to answering questions on that of the Prime Minister. Will he now say simply, in language that even those outside the House can understand, that, because of his local government settlement—despite all the boasts about the importance of education—more cash will go to schools next year only if other services are cut, or if council tax payers suffer a massive increase?

Mr. Raynsford

The hon. Gentleman has the brass neck to come to the House and raise such matters, when he knows full well that his party's decisions would lead to real-terms increases in council tax. That was the legacy of his party's Government. He also knows—and it is disingenuous of him to pretend otherwise—that the £835 million increase in education expenditure has been fully met by grant.

Mr. Skinner

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that, although the additional education money has been handed over, some local authorities have not come out of the spending round very well—especially Derbyshire, which has ended up at the bottom of the pile?

We are long past the time when Labour Members, particularly Ministers, should be arguing about keeping to the Tory guidelines. Enough is enough already. People out there—our supporters—expect more than that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."' The Tories are cheering, but I am talking about their policies.

Will my hon. Friend make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Will he remind the Chancellor that, if there is an extra £10 billion in taxable income for this financial year, we ought to be using it to ensure that Derbyshire and other areas benefit?

Mr. Raynsford

I hear what my hon. Friend says. [Interruption.] I do not know why Conservative Members seem to be trying to line themselves up with my hon. Friend's comments, given that he was directly criticising the policies of the last Government.

I remind my hon. Friends that we have provided for a 3.8 per cent. increase in local government expenditure, which is double what was left by the last Government. That is the present Government's commitment to improved relations with local government. We always said that this year's settlement would be difficult, because we inherited a financial framework and we are committed to working within it.

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