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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment 4:40 pm, 1st February 1995

I must continue for a moment. I shall allow hon. Members to intervene, but another paragraph would be helpful.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) has reminded us that we have to strike a balance between the proper responsibility of central Government to the economy of the country as a whole, including the control of inflation, and the proper duty of local government to decide how much it wants to spend to meet local needs. That is the knotty problem on which I tried to help my hon. Friends and hon. Members who represent Warwickshire.

Before I move on from aggregate spending figures, let me say a word about the total provision for education and personal social services, on which hon. Members have raised points. Provision for spending on education is set to rise by 1.1 per cent. That comes on top of a 2.4 per cent. increase for 1994–95. In real terms, as I have said, spending per pupil has risen by almost 50 per cent. since 1979. It is remarkable that that has happened. It would be wrong to ignore it. It is against that background that we have fixed the figures for this year.

It will be up to local education authorities and schools to deploy their resources to maximum effect to give priority to front-line services. If I had had the opportunity earlier, I would have made the point about the tone of the Cornwall telephone directory. The proportion of people who are admitted to be in administration—clerks and the like—as compared with people out in the field is on a scale which no private industry could support.