Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

It is a little harsh to say that I have been speaking for an hour. Several hon. Members have had an opportunity to put their points of view.

There are those who want more money for their local authority. The only way in which that can be done is either by taking money from other local authorities or by increasing the total amount. That is why we shall look with considerable care at the comments of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras. He must tell us, if he does not like the settlement, how much more he would spend, where it would come from, what taxes he would raise in order to deliver it, and whether the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) has given his permission for that statement. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give way to my right hon. and hon. Friends if they wish to remind him of that fact and, perhaps, ask again for his point of view.

To all councillors and hon. Members who ask, "Why does the system not give my authority more resources?", I say that, if we had a system which is as objective as we can work out with the local authority associations, it would not allow me to change the sum of the resources for an aggrieved authority or tilt that system toward a particular local council. I have seen that problem particularly when dealing with Newham, where there is an issue about the way in which spending is categorised between different groups of local authorities. I cannot make the point strongly enough that we can change the distribution methodology only when a different objective formula is justified. If the hon. Gentleman has some points that he would like to put into the formula, as his predecessors had, for they had several suggestions, I shall be very willing to consider them.

Last year, we carried out a thorough review of the distribution methodology and incorporated many changes. We needed a period of stability thereafter. We have made some changes, particularly to accommodate the police arrangements. There is more up-to-date information on pupil numbers, which makes the methodology much more up to date, as many people would agree.

We have also had to make a change in the SSA for the fire service, to take account of calls to incidents such as road accidents, and to recognise that maritime authorities have less scope for drawing reinforcements from neighbouring fire brigades. We have considered once more area cost adjustments, and we have responded to local government representations on the deemed debt of the former Greater London council and the levy of the London Pensions Fund Authority, which has helped inner London councils considerably. Detailed discussions with local authorities have led to that.

Since then, during the consultation period, we have received a number of representations from authorities about the data that we propose to use in the calculation of SSAs. Some of those representations brought to light errors that we have been able to correct. In particular, we have been able to improve data on pupil numbers, and we have tried to find ways of dealing with imperfections relating to pensions in the police SSA. We shall continue to discuss the SSA methodology with local authority associations.