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Revenue Support Grant (Worcestershire)

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

The current formula grant distribution system is designed to take into account the individual circumstances of each local authority relative to all others. The Government consider that a fair way of distributing grant to local authorities.

I find the Minister’s answer somewhat disappointing. May I impress on him the situation in Worcester, where in education, for example, the gap 10 years ago in pupil spending per year between us and Birmingham was a matter of a few hundred pounds, which was condemned by Labour candidates at the time? That gap is now in excess of £800 a year and rising. I implore him to go back to his Department, look again at the way in which the figure is calculated and consider whether, for example, Worcestershire should be given area cost adjustment status, which is given to neighbouring Warwickshire, with a similar geographic location and similar demographics. That would at least begin to address some of the appalling unfairness shown to the people who live in Worcestershire.

In comparing the hon. Lady’s authority with Birmingham, she fails to point out that the revenue of both has risen substantially. It is only fair to mention that. Of course, the dedicated schools budget is a matter for the Department for Education and Skills. However, I take on board her point about the area cost adjustment. Like the rest of the House, she will have to wait for the formal consultation on the formula grant distribution system, which is especially important this year as we intend to make a three-year grant settlement.

The Minister talks about substantial increases, but one thing that has increased substantially in Worcestershire is the council tax, which in 10 years has gone up by 120 per cent., caused by unfunded burdens and fiddle-funding. Who is responsible for this massive increase in its council tax? Is it 10 years of the current Prime Minister or 10 years of the current Chancellor?

It is neither; it is Worcestershire county council that sets the council tax. Before the hon. Gentleman gets too lost in his soundbites and clichés, let me point out that the grant floor, which he presumably opposes, protects Worcestershire county council to the tune of £2.9 million. I presume that he is not asking me to get rid of that floor.