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Public Spending

Volume 513: debated on Monday 12 July 2010

6. Pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 5 July 2010, Official Report, columns 1-2WS, on public spending control, how much of the £1 billion of reductions in his Department’s expenditure in 2010-11 will take effect in (a) Wakefield constituency and (b) West Yorkshire. (6961)

The budgets that will be affected were published on the Department’s website on Monday 5 July. We will shortly write to all local authorities setting out the impact on their allocations.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but the promises of rebuilding and repairing schools ring a little hollow in the light of the £1 billion cut to the schools capital programme that he is making in-year. Given that almost a third of the financial year has passed and he has not yet written to Wakefield or any other West Yorkshire authority with the details of how much will be cut from their reparation programmes, is his cut not in effect more like £1.3 billion or £1.5 billion, as the cuts will have to be made in-year?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question, but I refer her to a letter from the permanent secretary of my Department to the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls). He pointed out last week that, last year, the Treasury wrote to clarify its expectations of the use of end-year flexibility capital. The Treasury wanted to limit its use, but the Department refused to acknowledge it. The Treasury said clearly to the right hon. Gentleman that he was playing fast and loose with that capital stream. The issue had not been resolved by the time of the election, and instead of the dysfunctional relationship between the right hon. Gentleman and the Treasury, we now have a proper relationship involving a coalition Government who are clearing up the mess that we inherited from the hon. Lady’s Government.

Why was not a single word about that further £1 billion cut in education mentioned in the Secretary of State’s oral statement to the House last week? Will he confirm that the additional cuts in education, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of pupils in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and elsewhere, are being made so that he can open free market schools for the benefit of mere hundreds of pupils?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but he made two mistakes in his question. First, in my statement to the House last week, I explicitly mentioned that the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood had abused end-year flexibility. That is why he was kind enough to write to me, and why the permanent secretary was kind enough to write to put the record straight and to explain that the Treasury was in dispute with the right hon. Gentleman—not for the first, nor, I suspect, the last time. The hon. Gentleman’s other mistake is over the fact that the reduction in the—to my mind—unwarranted exploitation of end-year flexibility has been to restore sanity to the public finances after the mess that the right hon. Gentleman created. The capital allocation for our free schools is just £50 million, and it comes from a lower priority set of IT programmes. The permanent secretary makes it clear in his letter that the previous Government left us in a mess, which we are trying to resolve.