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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

It is difficult to judge the right weighting for sparsity. Although local authority associations, particularly the Association of County Councils, complain about the existing weighting, they have not yet come up with a better idea. If they do, it will be examined rigorously and honestly.

This year, we shall continue work on the police SSA because we must move to a system that fully reflects the characteristics of each area rather than establishment numbers. We have additional work to do on fire SSAs, as I have always made clear. We have introduced a factor for the problems of coastal areas. [Interruption.] I am delighted to add my welcome to the enthusiasm which the right hon. Member for Yeovil has clearly evoked in the House.

We are also looking at how best to tackle the problem with regard to fire, because the pension scheme has a perverse incentive that, after 26 and a half years' service, people take early retirement through ill health and go immediately on to a full indexed pension. People recognise that that system creates problems. In the past, fire authorities may have been over-complacent—and complaisant—in conniving with that, and we must address the issue. We are trying to deal with it through the SSA methodology.

We shall look at the children's social services because we need better-quality information. The Department of Health expects to commission research to permit a reform, probably for two years from now, because it is a complex matter.

We shall also look at highways maintenance.