Local Government Services

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:08 pm on 21st June 1991.

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Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham 2:08 pm, 21st June 1991

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) ended with the comment, "as soon as the Labour Government are elected." That is an abstraction. How can we know what the Labour Government would do when we have to rely on the peppering of pledges that we have heard in the House time and again? The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has done the House a great service by costing those pledges and showing that an abstract Labour Government would mean an extra 15p in the £1 on the standard rate of income tax.

We need not consider abstractions or look into the crystal ball; we can look at the book of Labour government in action, and that is where this debate is so useful. In the New Statesman and Society—the Labour party's house magazine—Sarah Baxter put it clearly when she said: Local authorities have provided the sole model of Labour in power in the past decade (and many have given the electorate a good fright)". How right she is. Whichever way one looks at the Labour party in government, one sees high taxation.

Which councils have the highest community charge this year? The five top chargers are Labour councils. Lambeth charged £450 and Haringey charged £420—what one might call the loonie left of London. Bristol is in third place, Islington is fourth and Oxford, of all places, is fifth. They are all Labour councils. Liverpool, which we have discussed today, is ripping off from its community charge payers the 10th highest charge.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) for raising the specific matter of the delivery of local government services. Let us have a quick look at how local councils deliver those services. Education is the largest service. Let us consider the councils that spend the most on education and then let us consider what they deliver in terms of the examination results of the youngsters about whom we should be concerned.

Let us look back two years ago to the unlamented Inner London education authority which had the highest spending on each child. Out of the 96 education authorities, its youngsters came 88th in terms of examination results. That hardly served those youngsters and was hardly value for money in giving them education. The second highest spender was Labour-controlled Waltham Forest, but its examination results were 95th out of 96 as a result of the education given under that authority. The third highest spender was Brent, which was then Labour, but in its examinations it was 75th out of 96. Newham, which is dear to the heart of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, was the fourth highest spender, yet managed to clock in at 93rd out of 96 in the examination performance of its youngsters. That is hardly value for money and is hardly good education for the children concerned. Why is that occurring?

Let us consider which authorities spend the most of their employment money within the education service on teachers in the classroom—the teachers who teach the children. In Newcastle upon Tyne, which is Labour controlled, fewer than half the staff in the education department are teaching the children. Some 54 per cent. are non-teachers—bureaucrats, administrators and good- ness knows what else. In Coventry, the second on the list, fewer than half the staff in the education department are teachers of children. The third worst is Cleveland, which is Labour controlled, and it is followed by Sheffield, which is Labour controlled, and Northumberland, which is Labour controlled, where 49 per cent. of the education department staff are not teachers. What is education all about if money is not put up front where the children are to be educated?