I want to start by adding my congratulations to my hon. Friends the Members for Dudley South (Chris Kelly) and for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal) on their excellent maiden speeches. I am sure the rest of the House will join me in hoping that they will speak again in this Chamber in the very near future.
Today's debate is very important. As Members will know, local government financing represents approximately 25% of Government spending and is responsible for delivering many of the essential front-line services our constituents rely on. Such a level of spending therefore cannot be immune to the spending cuts forced on us by the parlous state of the finances we inherited from the previous Labour Government. The historic local government funding formula has for far too long been used, especially by the Labour Government, not as a political tool but as a political weapon-a weapon with which to beat the shire counties of England for having the temerity to vote Conservative.
Local government finance is a particular concern to me and my constituents, as my constituency suffers greatly under the historic funding regime. This year, each child in North West Leicestershire is having £3,888 spent on their education, compared with the £4,497 spent on each child in the city of Leicester-a difference of some £600 per child per year, and the disparity is increasing. Last year, the difference in funding was £550 per child.
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