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Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:38 pm on 1st February 1995.

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Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon 9:38 pm, 1st February 1995

I shall not give way, as I want to give the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras a little more evidence.

Tony Travers stated: It is small wonder that the allocation of such large sums of money to hundreds of local authorities should lead to accusations of political bias. Yet there is no evidence of such political intervention. The Environment Select Committee, reporting unanimously with Labour Members agreeing, stated: We should like to place on the record our understanding that the Government's recent review of SSAs has been conducted in an open manner. DOE tested all of the options that it was asked to consider, and it has made data available in a readily usable form to interested parties. The Audit Commission, which the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras intends to wheel into action as a Cooksey's cavalry to charge against local authorities which he thinks are spending to much, said: The determination of SSAs, being wholly formula based, is explicit and open to scrutiny. It is a more sophisticated system for equalising needs than any overseas system examined in this study and it is an improvement on its predecessor in many respects. That is what objective people say about the methodology. Any suggestion that the methodology is rigged is sheer nonsense from start to finish. It is about time the Labour party understood that.

Let me illustrate that point. If it were rigged, it is curious that the SSA per head for Westminster is £1,278 with a total support grant of £1,023 while it is £904 for Wandsworth, £1,104 for Lambeth, £1,295 for Hackney and £1,535 for Tower Hamlets. There is nothing wrong with that. The important point is that the funds follow the areas of greatest need. They do that above all to the inner cities, and to the inner-city areas of London, most of which are Labour controlled.