HC Deb 18 December 2003 vol 415 cc1711-2
10. Mr. Neil Turner (Wigan) (Lab)

What assessment he has made of the effect of proposals to change the level of investment in public services in the Wigan borough. [144725]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng)

Wigan borough is benefiting from the Government's increased investment in public services, and will continue to do so, like all parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Turner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we have benefited from a £30 million programme delivering new surgeries for doctors, £25 million for a new hospital, £20 million for a further education college, £137 million to bring our housing stock up to decent standards, a new police station and a new fire station? Can he confirm that many of those would be threatened if we had to put up with a reduction of £80 billion in public expenditure in the coming financial year?

Mr. Boateng

In the spirit of Christmas, I am happy to give that confirmation.

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab)

In Leigh, the best part of Wigan borough, the NHS is improving, but at the end of the current spending round Ashton, Leigh and Wigan primary care trust will be some £10 million adrift from the funding target. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way of tackling health inequalities is to target resources where health is poorest? May I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), urge him to talk to his colleagues in the Department of Health to establish whether the pace of the "pace of change" policy can be quickened in the next spending round?

Mr. Boateng

I assure my hon. Friend that we are well aware of the impact of health inequalities. That is why the Government introduced a fairer funding formula for the NHS in 2002. It was an historic settlement: every primary care trust gained at least 8.3 per cent. in cash terms this year. That is progress, but we must continue to build on it. There is no room for complacency, and I hear what my hon. Friend says.

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