No specific requests have yet been made by Ealing for supplementary credit approvals—SCAs—for schools in 1995–96 and thus no SCAs have as yet been issued to the authority. However, the Department is considering whether a further SCA can be issued in 1995–96 for the LEA's liability on capital works at Cardinal Wiseman Roman Catholic voluntary-aided high school, which received SCA cover in 1993–94 and 1994–95.
Does the Minister agree that, in my borough and across London, resources are being reduced at a time when the number of schoolchildren in London is increasing faster than the national average? Does he agree that the system for determining education annual capital guidelines needs investigating to ensure that resources are directed to where they are most needed?
No, I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman on the essence of his question. The capital guidelines for the current year—the total amount that the Government approve for capital spending by local authorities—was increased in cash terms by 3.5 per cent. The priorities were drawn up a decade ago in discussion with local authorities. I have made it clear that I am happy to revisit those priorities, but the hon. Gentleman would not expect his authority to be treated differently from the rest. The priorities will, logically, continue to be existing projects, meeting basic need, and the removal of surplus places.
I thank my hon. Friend for the good work at Cardinal Wiseman high school. All the money will be well spent there. Ealing Labour council has £17 million in reserves, yet it has the effrontery to cut teachers' jobs—it is seeking to cut three at Northolt primary school which should be restored immediately. It has no right to deprive children of a proper education by taking away teachers' jobs or money from schools; there is plenty in the bank and Ealing Labour council had better put it back into schools straight away.
My hon. Friend does well to remind us of the great discretion that local education authorities enjoy over how they spend their money, but the example of my hon. Friend's Labour-run authority is a very bad one. My hon. Friend also reminds me that the Government's borrowing approvals are but a part of the total capital spending. Indeed, in the most recent full year for which I have figures—1993–94—they represented only 50 per cent. of the total amount spent on our schools.