HC Deb 19 May 1998 vol 312 c727
16. Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

What proportion of local government spending in Scotland is raised by council tax; and what plans he has to change this proportion. [41265]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Calum Macdonald)

Just over 20 per cent. of local authority net expenditure in Scotland is funded by the council tax. There are no plans to alter that proportion at present.

Mr. Bruce

Surely Government policy is to extend the amount being collected locally compared to the amount provided by the national Exchequer. The English borders are subject to that policy, but Scotland is not. There is already an enormous inequality between the amount given by the central Exchequer to local authorities in Scotland and the amount given to those in England and Wales. As a result of devolution, must we not re-examine the Barnett formula and come up with a fair distribution of central funds to local funds, because, otherwise, the United Kingdom will come under enormous pressure?

Mr. Macdonald

The Conservative Government were happy to sustain and support the Barnett formula. It is odd that Conservative Members should stand on their heads and try to attack it now that they are in opposition. We will consult in the summer on proposals to return some local control over the business rate, but, if that is implemented, there will be strong safeguards to protect the interests of local businesses.