HC Deb 26 January 1999 vol 324 cc134-5
8. Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok)

If he will make a statement on the local government financial settlement for Glasgow for 1999–2000. [65833]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar)

Scottish councils will see the best financial settlement for seven years, with significant funding increases for front-line services, especially education. Glasgow's share of central Government support for 1999–2000 is set to rise in line with the Scottish average by almost 5 per cent.

Mr. Davidson

Will my right hon. Friend clarify whether that will reduce the differential that is paid by Glasgow residents over and above that which is paid by other council tax payers in Scotland? Will he do all he can to ensure that Glasgow's bearing of the metropolitan burden and its difficulties—Glasgow faces the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in Scotland—are adequately recognised in future grant settlements?

Mr. Dewar

I recognise that there are special problems in Glasgow, which is my own city. I also recognise that Glasgow gets a higher grant per head than other local authorities, although there is always an argument about whether the balance is right. The increase in guidelined expenditure in Glasgow will be £47.6 million, or 4.9 per cent., which takes the overall figure to slightly more than £1 billion. Although I am sure he is aware of it in general terms, I remind my hon. Friend that Glasgow is the major beneficiary of the safety net, which is worth about £8 million to the city this year; that the Scottish Office has made arrangements to cover the revenue costs of the transfer by Glasgow from its housing revenue account of capital costs to the general fund relating to demolished houses; and that Glasgow's schools project alone is worth a capital equivalent of more than £130 million. We are trying to help Glasgow and recognise its problems, and we shall continue to do so.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's constituents will be pleased with that pork barrel list of extra help for Glasgow. Will he comment on the fact that he believes that council taxes will rise by 5 per cent.—twice the rate of inflation—which surely flies in the face of the Labour Government's commitment not to put up taxes? Is he confident that Glasgow will keep to 5 per cent., given that most local authorities that have been told by the Government that they should be charging 5 per cent. extra are pushing up to 8 per cent., 9 per cent. or 10 per cent. extra? Is that to be the reality of Labour government, both national and local, in Glasgow?

Mr. Dewar

The hon. Gentleman is becoming an increasingly ridiculous figure, although, to be fair, he is trespassing into areas about which he knows little. He will remember that, under the settlements provided by the Conservative Government, the annual increase in Glasgow's council tax ran at about 20 per cent. That figure has now been halved and I hope that it will substantially decrease again this year. We are making progress and our aim is to provide the people of Glasgow with the services they deserve, while properly recognising the protection required by council tax payers. If the hon. Gentleman looked at the record, he would blush as deep a colour as his hair once was and say little about the subject and the record of the Conservative Administration.