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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 6:30 pm, 1st February 1995

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I do not have unlimited time. I have only 10 minutes. If possible, I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman towards the end of my speech.

We have seen the usual parade of amputated stumps. Young people and the elderly have been used as battering rams. When my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) talked about parents and elderly people being in terror, Opposition Members broke into laughter. I do not believe that that happened because they are callous. They laughed because they know the truth; they know, for example, that no teachers will be made redundant.

Cuts in teacher numbers will not be made. I know that, as do Opposition Members and the media. The only people who do not know that there will be no such cuts are frightened people. Opposition Members may not have had to deal with people coming into advice bureaux shaking with fear because the local authority is threatening to take away home care from their elderly parents. There are also parents who are worried about their young child returning from school with a letter from the local authority suggesting that teachers will be made redundant. I believe firmly in the professionalism and independence of local authority officers. If, however, the majority party of a council decides that a letter should be sent to the people of the area, I do not accept that it should be sent in the name of a local authority officer.

I believe that head teachers are entitled to protest. They are entitled to say what they think about the level of service within their responsibility. If, however, schools are short of resources, they are not entitled to use school notepaper to draw attention to what they regard as shortages, thereby depriving schools of equally valuable resources.