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Council Tax

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 15th June 1995.

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 4:47 pm, 15th June 1995

Yes, just as anyone can eat at the Ritz. Anyone is entitled to the grant, but the grant is especially useful to Westminster.

Many visitors arrive in Westminster in cars and pay parking charges. Westminster city council receives more than £20 million a year in parking charges, which is not offset against any aspect of its grant. It is a racket, it has always been a racket and it will remain a racket so long as the Government are in office.

It is a racket that protects over-spenders in Westminster. The capped authorities spend much less on refuse collection: Newcastle spends £25 per head, Norwich spends £11 per head and Sheffield spends £14 per head. However, the Tories' over-subsidised fat-cat Westminster city council pays out no less than £53 per head on refuse collection. On street cleaning, Newcastle spends £8 per head, Norwich spends £5 per head and Sheffield spends £5 per head. Those councils have been capped so that Westminster, profligate as it is, can spend £36 per head on street cleaning. It beats me why Tory Members from Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Devon, Norwich and Sheffield are willing to go along with that racket, which lines the pockets of a few people in Westminster and does no good for the people whom they purport to represent.

I shall compare the allowance made in the grant for education for the capped authorities with that made for Westminster. If Devon county council were to receive the same education allowance as Westminster, it could employ 2,566 extra teachers this year rather than think about getting rid of teachers. Gloucestershire could employ 1,618 extra teachers, Shropshire could employ 996 extra teachers, Sheffield could employ 892 extra teachers, Newcastle could employ 371 extra teachers and Barnsley could employ 451 extra teachers. I cannot understand why Tory Members voted for a settlement like that. It must be said, however, that that is the basic background to this decision. If something is rotten to the core, the final product—the capping—is also bound to be rotten.