§ Mr. Sweeney
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he will announce his decision on the 1995–96 local government revenue settlement.
§ Mr. Redwood
I have given careful consideration to the representations I have received on the provisional settlement proposals for local authorities and police 533W authorities in Wales, which I announced on 29 November, Official Report, column 59, and 1 December, Official Report, column 815. The Minister with responsibilities for local government in Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones), has met representatives of Dyfed Powys and North Wales police authorities, and I chaired a meeting of the Welsh Consultative Council on Local Government Finance, at which settlement matters were discussed.
Having taken account of all representations, I remain of the view that my proposals provide local authorities with an adequate level of funding for 1995–96, given the low level of inflation and opportunities for improving efficiency. Local authorities will need to assess their budget priorities carefully, but my plans ask no more of them than is being required of central Government and other public sector organisations.
I have considered carefully the representations that I have received about my provisional settlement proposals for police authorities. In the light of those representations, I have decided to provide an additional £15.1 million in funding for Welsh police forces. This will bring the total available for police services in 1995–96 to £315.8 million. Of this, £156 million will be paid by the Home Secretary as police grant and I will provide £159.8 million as standard spending assessments. My plans clearly demonstrate the Government's determination to support the police and tackle crime. They provide the new police authorities with a strong financial base which will enable them to continue to provide a high standard of service to the communities they serve.
To take account of the additional funding I am making available for policing, I have decided to set total standard spending at £2,782.1 million and aggregate external finance at £2,466.0 million for 1995–96. The settlement will increase the level of resources available to local and police authorities by over £87 million compared with 1994–95.
Aggregate external finance will comprise £1,718.3 million in revenue support grant, £520 million in distributable non-domestic rates, and £227.7 million in specific and supplementary grants. My decisions are subject to approval by the House.
The total standard spending I have announced for 1995–96 represents an increase of 3.2 per cent. on 1994–95, including £124.4 million for care in the community. My plans mean that 89 per cent. of total local and police authority revenue expenditure in Wales would be met by central Government, and should ensure a reasonable level of council tax for local taxpayers.
I trust that local authorities will continue to budget prudently and play their part in restraining public expenditure.
I propose to lay the Local Government Finance Report (Wales) 1995–96 before the House, for its approval, later this week.