Local Government Finance

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1995.

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Mr. Alan W. Williams:

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the total Welsh Office allocation for local government expenditure for 1995–96; and how much of that total county councils have allocated to education. [18730]

Photo of Mr Rod Richards Mr Rod Richards , Clwyd North West

Local government expenditure, or total standard spending, for 1995–96 has been set at £2.78 billion. Not all local authorities have yet provided us with returns showing the education budgets that they have set. However, I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that section 42 budget statements already received from four counties show healthy increases in budgets for schools.

Mr. Williams:

Can the Minister explain to my constituents why the council tax bills that they are now receiving have increased by 16 per cent.?

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

They are from Labour-controlled councils.

Mr. Williams:

No, they are from independent-controlled Carmarthen district council and Dyfed county council. Council tax bills are increasing by 16 per cent., yet Dyfed county council finds that it must cut £4.5 million from its education budget. Is it not the case that, under the Tories, we pay more taxes but receive fewer services?

Photo of Mr Rod Richards Mr Rod Richards , Clwyd North West

I suggest that, when the hon. Gentleman returns to his constituency, he speaks to the chairman of his education authority. The general schools budget for Dyfed will rise 3.3 per cent. compared with last year. It will rise 4.2 per cent. in Gwent, 2.8 per cent. in Powys and 2.2 per cent. in South Glamorgan. Those are real increases when set against education inflation, which by definition is the increase in teachers' salary of 2.7 per cent. So I hope that that is evidence that the councils are doing what we want them to—prioritising their front-line service budgets, and making savings on their central and administrative costs.

When the hon. Gentleman goes back to his constituency and talks to the chairman of the education authority, will he tell him that there is no need for any cuts in numbers of teachers in his constituency or anywhere else in Dyfed? There has been a real increase in the education budget, so the education authority in Dyfed should stop frightening parents, teachers and pupils.