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Local Authority Expenditure

Volume 81: debated on Tuesday 25 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report on "Local Authority Expenditure Policies on Education Provision in England—1984".

I authorised the report's publication and commend its measured analysis as essential reading to all concerned with the provision of education. I look forward to discussing its findings with the local authority associations.

This report is highly critical of the Government. It points out that the Government's demands for new technology to be introduced into the curriculum leads to many problems for local authorities. Their school buildings need to be refurbished. Many of them were built in the 1950s and 1960s and considerable sums of money need to be spent upon them. If I may give a constituency example, the city of Manchester needs £10 million to carry out this work. That does not take into account the normal maintenance that has to be carried out by local authorities.

I accept that there are shortcomings over the maintenance of school buildings that reach back over several Governments and very many years. However, the same report to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention criticises the management of resources by many local education authorities. They are spending money where it needs not to be spent, with the result that money is stinted where it ought to be spent.

This report is a gross indictment of the Government's disgraceful, disgusting and unacceptable treatment of the education system. Highly qualified and trained teachers are being denied the buildings and the resources that are needed to provide our children with the basic education that they require.

The hon. Gentleman is guilty of selective quotation. The maintenance of buildings is criticised in the report, but it criticises as more significant still the combined effects of bad management by many local education authorities of public resources and ineffective teaching by a considerable minority of teachers.

As a result of Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report on expenditure on schools, does the Secretary of State agree that crisis point has been reached in terms of school repairs? One shire county alone has a backlog of repairs amounting to £35 million. Is the Secretary of State aware that in my constituency, during the last year four schools have had to close because of lack of repairs and that one of them, Elm street, requires repairs amounting to £600,000? Will the Secretary of State help local authorities like mine to foot the bill for these repairs?

Without condoning the position on repairs, I ask the House to realise that the same report said that there was scope for redeployment of public money in many local education authorities. The report, which Opposition Members are using as a quarry to criticise the Government, was not published by them in their time.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in paragraph 14 of the report Her Majesty's Inspectorate—his own advisers — makes it clear that there is a link between resources and quality? Is he further aware that paragraph 89 points out that if we are to increase the level of achievement in our schools there must be more resources? So why is he cutting back central Government money to local education authorities by 9 per cent. in real terms over the next three years?

The hon. Gentleman continually quotes that figure, without adding that that figure was specifically described as provisional. As the report says, adequate resourcing is not a sufficient condition for sound education, but, that said, I accept that there is an association between satisfactory levels of resourcing and the quality of the educational process. There is no conflict between that finding and other evidence that there is only a slight correlation between levels of attainment, as measured by public examinations, and levels of spending on education.