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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 5:50 pm, 1st February 1995

How can the Secretary of State say that the scandalous waste of public funds in Westminster has not affected the funds that it receives from central Government? He says that he did not know about it. If he and his officials did not know about it, they would not know why there were such gaps in the accounts, which had to be made up in this settlement. That is why we are concerned about what is going on.

If the Secretary of State wants to bandy about figures for Westminster and Camden, let me give him a few. The Audit Commission selected 12 indicators at the middle of last year. On those, Camden far out-performs Westminster. There are 12 indicators and 12 inner London boroughs. Camden comes top in four of those indicators and is either first or second best in seven out of 12. Westminster comes top in only one and either first or second best in just three of the 12. Camden has the best educational results in inner London, even before they are adjusted for deprivation. When deprivation is taken into account, Camden is second best in the whole of England, and Westminster is 99th. I hope that the Secretary of State is proud of that. When it comes to handing out mandatory awards to students, 99 per cent. of students in Camden got mandatory awards on the due date, whereas no students in Westminster got mandatory awards on the due date. So I hope that the Secretary of State will shut up for the time being.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied with the present arrangements, powers and resources of the Audit Commission and the district auditor, or does he agree with the Labour party that the present system is letting everyone down and that the Audit Commission and the district auditor need to be strengthened to eliminate fraud and corruption wherever it arises?