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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:11 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire 7:11 pm, 1st February 1995

That fact has come out of the research that we have done. Derbyshire county council may score high on spending, but its allocation on schools is the lowest of any shire county. It spends more on central administration than any other county. I am not proud of that record, because I would prefer money to go into schools.

Until a few years ago, there was no option in the state system. All schools were run by the local education authority. Back in 1988, I was pleased to be parliamentary private secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold). We took the Education Reform Act 1988 through the House, which allowed schools to become grant-maintained.

Now, there is another option for education. I welcome that option, because it makes Derbyshire county council be careful about some of the nonsensical decisions that it has taken in the past. We had the crazy situation in which all school notepaper was taken back to county offices to be overprinted with "Derbyshire supports nuclear-free zones." It has become a bit better in recent times.

I should like to share with the House some of the experiences of schools that have gone grant-maintained. The head teacher of Belper high school said recently: The school has benefited from enhanced funding because although we are linked to the Derbyshire formula the element for central costs can be spent specifically to meet our own needs. Independence enables us to manage our finances far more effectively because we have full control. We received an emergency grant from the DFE to replace our twenty-year-old boilers. Queries are always answered promptly and clearly by the DFE which has made the task of management much easier. Dr. Dupey, the head of Ecclesbourne school, said: The last four years have been the most professionally fulfilling of nearly two decades of headship. Not only have we been able to put right most of the physical deficiencies of the School's site and buildings, we have been able to assign a much higher proportion of what was our share of the resources allocated to Derbyshire for education to the business of teaching and learning. The effort wasted on petty politics and bureaucracy has also been significantly reduced, leaving more time, energy and enthusiasm to devote to the needs of our students.