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Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Act 1989.
South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Act 1989.
Scottish Episcopal Clergy Widows' and Orphans' FundOrder Confirmation Act 1989.
Dame Peggy Fenner (Medway) : I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise the important matter of the historic dockyard in Chatham. In June 1985, the Secretary of State for Defence announced the closure of one of our royal dockyards--Chatham. That was a trauma for the people of the Medway towns, and particularly for the people of Chatham. For centuries the names of the Royal Navy and Chatham have been synonymous. Many people in Medway towns worked in the dockyards, as their fathers and grandfathers had done before them. It was urgent that the Government should ensure that the valuable riverside site in Chatham should not become a derelict eyesore but should be redeveloped to maintain and improve the quality of the environment in the Medway towns and to provide job opportunities to replace some of those lost by the closure of the dockyard.
The Government also faced the problem that one fifth of the acreage of the dockyard is the great historical section of the famous yard. That is in my constituency. When one walks through the famous gate, one is confronted by the most complete Georgian dockyard in Britain. Nelson joined the Navy there, and his flagship Victory was built there around 1760 and rebuilt there between 1803 and 1804. The dockyard comprises some 100 buildings, and 47 of them are the greatest concentration of scheduled ancient monuments in one place in Britain. To preserve that great heritage, the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust was set up in 1984 as a company limited by guarantee. Its objectives were prepared by the Government and they were, first, "to secure for the public benefit preservation and use of the historic dockyard in Chatham in a manner appropriate to its archaeological, historical and architectural importance"; and, secondly,
"to promote and foster for the public benefit a wide knowledge and understanding of the archaeological, historical and architectural significance of the Historic Dockyard".
The Government gave the trust the freehold of the site so that it could pursue those objectives and meet the criteria. They also gave the trust £11,350,000--they did not say how they arrived at that figure--and a number of large industrial artefacts which were extremely expensive to move and set out for display.
The Government also gave the trust the responsibility to honour a contract, which had already been embarked on, for repairs to the ropery. Those who are not familiar with Chatham dockyard should be made aware that the ropery is a brick building some quarter of a mile long with a roof to match which the House may be interested to know supports one mile of guttering. The contract that was embarked upon was for £2,650,000, but turned out to cost £3,023,000, which had to be deducted from the original £11.5 million.
The public had previously been allowed in to the dockyard on Navy days, but in July 1984 the visitor centre and the whole historic dockyard was opened to them for the first time. There is now a living, working museum. Ropes are being made in the ropery and sold ; flags are being made in the flag loft and sold. An historic ship is being repaired and restored and there are five museum galleries. The wooden ships gallery has recently been
Column 643completed and the trust now wants to embark on an iron-clad gallery. There are facilities for temporary and visiting exhibitions, a steam centre and an extensive education programme which encourages schools and school parties to visit and make the most of the educational and historical opportunities there.
There is a seasonal theatre company, a range of annual special events, concerts and theme weeks. Visitor numbers have gradually increased as the museum has developed. This financial year, they numbered 95,000, which was a 43 per cent. increase on the previous year. The all-party heritage group, the chairman of which is my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), were recent, distinguished visitors. My hon. Friend hoped that he might return to the Chamber in time to speak in this debate, but he has sent me a letter saying that the group was extremely impressed with the progress being made and the quality and excitement of what is on offer at the dockyard, and that I should convey to the House its strong support for the plea that I am making.
The trust's strategy can be encapsulated quite briefly. The museum's theme is principally to tell the story of the building of British warships and the life of dockyard workers. It is to develop housing in the dockyard. There is a magnificent terrace of 12 Georgian buildings there. To bring people to live in the dockyard again, a high-quality scheme has been prepared which we hope will be completed in 1992-93 and enable 82 families to return to the dockyard. The scheme provides facilities for maritime and craft-related tenants. So far, we have more than 50 tenants, two thirds of whom meet those strict criteria. By about 1993 the trust hopes to have developed residential courses in maritime-related skills and crafts on offer to the general public.
To the initial endowment, the trust has attracted, generated and earned through the gate donations and grants nearly £1.1 million. It also has £500,000 in loans, making a total of £12,453,000. The trust appointed a full-time fund raising officer in October 1988 further to develop and increase the fund-raising activities. The number of visitors has increased and a charge is made on them. That income has risen to £107,000 in the financial year that has just ended. Income from the 50 commercial tenants has risen dramatically to £195,000 in line with the growing rents on commercial property in the Medway towns.
The trust has doubled its original money by wise investment and income generation. A simple summary of the trust's current position is as follows. Capital receipts and commitments to date total £12.5 million. The reduction for the restoration liability--which was very heavy as it involved a concentration of 47 scheduled buildings--has declined from £22 million to £15 million and the total expenditure to date has been £13.5 million. At the end of the current financial year, the total remaining funds are a little less than £8.5 million. I bring this case before the House in prudence before the trust's funds reach a lower level. The management team has recently completed a draft budget for 1990-93 because it wants to look ahead at the level of expenditure on further restoration and development of the museum facilities. The trust is committed to further restoration as the buildings concerned are scheduled buildings. The trust
Column 644is committed to their restoration because the Government have scheduled them as a precious part of the nation's heritage and that restoration will cost a further £15 million. The development of the museum that is outstanding, including the iron-clad gallery, amounts to £5 million and a sum of £4 million is required to fund the budget deficit. In total that is just over £24 million.
I have already placed this matter before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I know that the all-party heritage group has visited the museum and has listened to the facts. It fully supports my comments today. I trust that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State my wish to see his commitment to our national heritage and his reassurance to the trust which is caring for it.
The museum site is unique in Britain's history. The work on the site to date has been carried out expertly by the trust which has some very devoted trustees under the chairmanship of the chairman and chief executive, General Sir Steuart Pringle, former commandant general of the Royal Marines. Their work is of high quality. They have mapped out the path ahead, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will express a further commitment to that work and match it with the necessary funding.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member foMedway (Dame P. Fenner) on securing this debate and raising the important matter of the future of Chatham's historic dockyard. The dockyard is widely recognised as one of the nation's most important heritage assets. Indeed, it is probably the most complete Georgian dockyard in existence. Chatham was once the country's premier fleet base and, later, a most important repair and building yard. It is a memorial and a testament to British sea power. My hon. Friend has described its importance.
The Government's recognition of the historic importance of the dockyard was clearly reflected in our commitment to assist its preservation when the royal naval dockyard was closed in 1983. That commitment was delivered by the establishment of the Historic Dockyard Trust in 1984, together with an endowment of £11.35 million. That money went towards the cost of preserving and maintaining the built heritage assets. We have also given added legislative protection to many of the buildings and sites within the dockyard--50 are scheduled ancient monuments, and 13 of them are also listed. The Government accepted, on the trust's inception, that the costs of maintaining the buildings and developing the site into a "living dockyard" through a mix of visitor facilities, light industry and housing would probably exceed £11 million. However, it was rightly felt at the time that, with a vigorous development and marketing strategy, the new trust would be able to supplement its endowment with private sector investment. So it was made clear to the original members of the trust that the £11 million was for the preservation and maintenance of the site and was not primarily intended to finance the developments that were necessary to establish the site as a heritage and tourist attraction.
We did not, and do not, underestimate the difficulty of attracting such private funding and, so far, the trust has
Column 645not been as successful in attracting private support as it had hoped. Nevertheless there has been considerable additional finance from the public purse since 1984. English Heritage has provided about £420,000, the National Heritage Memorial Fund has provided £130,000, the English tourist board has offered a £200,000 repayable grant, Kent county council has contributed £360,000 with the prospect of more by way of a loan, and Rochester upon Medway city council has contributed £50,000.
I pay tribute to the considerable achievements of Lieutenant General Sir Steuart Pringle, his fellow board members and the staff at the trust over the past five years, particularly for bringing back into imaginative use a number of the historic buildings.
My hon. Friend has well described some of those activities and new facilities. The initiatives have attracted more than 50 commercial tenants, and developed the heritage assets of the dockyard for thousands of visitors to enjoy each year. We also welcome Sir Steuart's continuing commitment and enthusiasm to build on these achievements.
Despite the indisputable historical importance of the dockyard, however, I do not think that the House could readily or easily agree to the allocation of further public money at this stage--certainly not to the £24 million that Sir Steuart is seeking. But I recognise the Government's obligation to the funding of heritage projects--indeed, our overall budget next year will be about £150 million, compared with Government expenditure of only £37 million in 1979. Within this large national sum the grant-in-aid to English Heritage is nearly £80 million, of which it aims to spend about £30 million on repair grants to historic buildings throughout the country.
Despite the significant overall budget for heritage and the increase over the past 10 years, we must be cautious about spending large sums on any one site which would prevent money from being spent elsewhere. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Medway knows that there are many pressing candidates for additional spending in other parts of the United Kingdom.
There are, indeed, many worthy causes for public and private patrons. To see and understand the very best of objects and buildings from the past is important to our national way of life. It helps us to define who we are as a people. It helps us to form roots and it is an important component of education. The country's rich and valued heritage--of historic towns and villages, great houses and early industrial and military sites such as Chatham--has also provided a base for our growing tourist industry.
Against that background, I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government remain keen and concerned to
Column 646identify a way forward for Chatham which is acceptable to all concerned and which secures the long-term future of the dockyard. The task is by no means easy ; we do not dispute that the trust has a particularly difficult job on its hands. But, as my hon. Friend knows, we are undertaking detailed discussions with Sir Steuart to identify options for the future.
Senior officials from the Department will be meeting Sir Steuart again early in the new year ; I think that the date is set as 10 January. That follows visits to the dockyard in October and November by my hon. Friend the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage matters, and my noble Friend Lord Arran on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. I am pleased to note that the chairman of the all-party heritage group also visited the site and I shall take careful note of his comments--in particular, of his message of support to my hon. Friend for today's debate. We shall pursue with the trust the feasibility of its current development strategy and its plans for attracting private investment and looking for new and increased commercial opportunities.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I acknowledge that. That is why, when the trust was set up in 1984, the £11 million endownment was primarily designed to be spent on the repair and maintenance aspects of the site. In addition, we recognised that development expenditure would be required, and that should be funded, at least in part, from private sources. I have emphasised throughout that we understand the difficulties of attracting such funding. I am pleased to note that a fund-raising officer was appointed in October 1988. That is a welcome development and we look forward to learning about what the trust plans to achieve through that appointment.
We all admire the vision of Sir Steuart and his colleagues, but we must be wary of counsels of perfection, even in the context of a unique asset such as the historic dockyard. A Rolls-Royce development plan would require massive short and long-term public investment, and that may not be realistic or feasible. However, I hope that a sensible compromise can be identified. I will convey these thoughts and the views of my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as she has asked. I hope that we can find a way to enable the trust to meet its original objectives-- albeit over a longer time than it might have wished--and to secure the effective preservation of this historic dockyard.
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro) : I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate and I thank the Minister for staying on as we are just about to break for Christmas. I know that the Minister visited Cornwall not long ago and that the county's problems have already been brought to her attention. I requested a debate on the funding of the education service in Cornwall because there is no more important investment than the investment that we make in the future of our children. However, the disparity between what needs to be spent on education in Cornwall and what the Government are willing to spend--or, more accurately, will allow to be spent--is widening to an ever more worrying extent.
There are changing financial arrangements. Our schools have been under- resourced for far too long, but the introduction of the poll tax and the associated changes will make matters worse. Cornwall could reasonably expect its prudent management in the past to be recognised in the level of Government financial support that it is to receive, yet Cornwall, which is underspending by £4 million on the Government's current assessment of its spending need on education, is overnight to be turned into a so-called "overspender" when measured against the new standard spending assessment. That is absurd to anyone who looks at the figures and it arises for a number of reasons which are, by and large, unconnected with any assessment of the needs of the education service in Cornwall.
The Government's financial support includes wholly inadequate provision for the effects of inflation on local authority spending. It is inadequate in terms that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would accept, although it has not been changed in terms of local government funding. Apart from being a real cut because of the effects of inflation, it takes no account of the need to increase spending to meet the increased pressure that schools face in implementing recent legislation.
To compound all that, the method that has been adopted for calculating Cornwall's education standard spending assessment takes further resources away from Cornwall. Under this element, the county has lost grant equivalent to £11 per adult. To make matters worse, resources have been moved from poor counties, such as Cornwall, to support richer counties around London. The area cost adjustment has lost Cornwall a further £7 an adult and is another example of the problems that will arise from the introduction of the poll tax. I hope that the Minister will agree that it is unfair that people in Cornwall, where wages are 20 per cent. below the national average, should have to subsidise counties around London, where incomes are substantially higher than the average. Even if Cornwall spends at the Government's standard level for education need as now defined, despite higher inflation, my constituents will contribute 40 per cent. more than they do this year.
Against that background of more financial constraints, there is a huge demand for resources for buildings, maintenance, books, equipment, in- service training for teachers and training for governors. However, the capital budget is of particular concern in Cornwall because we have so many Victorian primary schools and nine split-site secondary schools which need urgent attention. Over 50
Column 648primary schools have outdoor toilets and over 80 are without a hall. The county tells me--and I am sure that it is right--that it has no hope of meeting the regulations on the standard of premises by the deadline of 1991. In other words, the Government have set standards but are not allowing the money to meet them.
I visited Mevagissey school in my constituency recently. Huge problems arise there as a result of overcrowding. The school hall has to be used on the same day as a gym, a meeting place and a classroom, but the school has been taken off the lists of schools urgently needing new buildings. It was on the council's priority list last year, but this year it has been replaced by another school equally, or more, deserving. It is a vivid illustration of the merry-go-round of hopelessness in trying to meet £100 million worth of need with £7 million or £8 million worth of spending.
I heard this morning devastating news about the capital building programme for next year. The council asked for permission to spend £18 million, including ongoing commitments from this year to £10 million. The Minister discussed those needs with those councillors during her visit and they made strong representations to her. However, the announcement just made is that the figure allowed by the Government for 1990-91 will be only £6.522 million, against a need of approaching £100 million, of spending to meet targets that are meant to be met by 1991. This means that the LEA will need £3.5 million from further savings or sales of assets just to keep up with the projects already in progress, let alone any projects that county councillors and others from all parts of the county might wish to have for next year. Many planned projects will not now be able to go ahead.
The situation regarding building is nearing disaster again and no one in the county, of whatever political persuasion, can understand why the Government will not allow the county council to act. Teachers, governors, parents and children will be stunned by the sad news that they have just had, and people will be justifiably angry. I hope that the Minister will now agree, as at least one concrete measure arising from this debate, to meet a delegation from the county to press this concern. I am sure that the county will be seeking such a meeting. The hon. Member for Cornwall, South- East (Mr. Hicks), in an Ajournment debate in July 1988, also raised the problem of bringing school buildings up to standard--that emphasises the all-party nature of this concern--but, despite his efforts, today's announcement will leave the situation worse than it has ever been. It is about time that Ministers recognised the difficulities in which they are putting Cornish schools.
Major investment is needed to ease the growing problem of teacher morale, and a greater Government appreciation of the valuable job that teachers do would be welcome. That arises, in part, from the difficulties that they face working in schools, but also from the frustration that they have in implementing the changes that the Government are introducing. The falling morale among teachers particularly saddens me, but the Government ignore the difficulties that teachers are facing, and just heap more and more work on them. Already, there are chronic teacher shortages in many parts of Cornwall and difficulties in getting teachers with the skills required for teaching maths and sciences, and the situation is worsening. In letters to the Secretary of State for Education and Science--which have been copied to me
Column 649--from head teachers, they raise many deep concerns about the situation in schools. Rather than try to express their frustration in my words, it would be best to quote some of the letters, because they speak powerfully about this crisis of morale.
One head teacher wrote :
"The workload is becoming almost insurmountable for all of us--we will work for the sake of our pupils but these excessive demands, lack of time and preparation to complete everything within Government issued deadlines will result in the continued erosion of the teaching profession, and you will find that existing expertise, dedication and professionalism will recede."
Another teacher, with 30 years' experience, said to the Secretary of State :
"Please, please wake up to the fact that it is now our caring, dedicated staff who are desperate to leave teaching. We are continually being encouraged to be positive'. I and many other teachers never found this a problem until recently. There is more to job satisfaction' than salary. Top of my list comes inner satisfaction that I am giving of my best to my class --this is becoming increasingly difficult."
A young head teacher only recently appointed wrote :
"I do not have enough books or books of the right quality. We are short of basic equipment and expensive equipment needed for science I am tired, under extreme stress and have lost a great deal of enthusiasm. I have been offered three jobs in industry at twice the salary I am getting at present and it is likely that I will accept the next job offered to me."
Another teacher said :
"I have a good many years left to give to education but my enthusiasm for teaching cannot go on indefinitely unless the Government provide significant additional resources to enable us to implement the National Curriculum in a professional manner." Finally, another teacher wrote :
"Morale in my school is at an all time low and deteriorating. I no longer have the time or reason to motivate staff. I shall be seeking early retirement myself at the earliest possible time, if the stress does not kill me first."
I emphasise that those letters come from head teachers in schools of acknowledged high quality. There is no argument about the results that we get from the county. But to tackle the problems we need to have proper recognition of the problems that teachers face and pay must be part of that priority.
I should like a commitment from the Minister that the £600 million limit on the amount to fund the teachers' pay increase next year will be increased. That limit represents an increase across the board of only 7.4 per cent. In view of the present level of inflation, that will make financial hardship for teachers worse rather than better. I implore the Department of Education and Science to start talking again to teachers through a proper negotiating structure. That can only be fair, especially in view of the extra demands being placed on teachers.
I should also like to see the Government invest in much higher profile recruitment for properly qualified teachers to ensure that the maths and science teacher shortages in the county, which are even greater in other parts of the country, are addressed.
I must also make it clear that none of the letters that I have received makes the problem of pay the priority. They refer to something much more basic--training, books, the most basic materials for making the most of the brief, unrepeatable time that we have to give our children their education.
Ministers may not like the issues that I raise. They mainly concern funding and the Government are averse to that, because they have to go to the Treasury to ask for
Column 650funds, and I understand the difficulties in doing that. But the Government must face the fact that more money is desperately needed, not least in our county.
The announcement that we have heard today is inadequate. Teachers' morale is undeniably low. The teachers whom I have quoted today are talking of resignation. We hear the Government talk about new schemes and CTCs which will never be seen in my county, but schools for the vast majority of children in the county are running out of the basic resources that they need to give children the fundamental and best education that they need.
Teachers in my county are struggling against many odds and achieving good results. They do not have the best of teaching facilities, not through any fault of the Government but because they are old schools, and that needs to be changed. The teaching that is provided in the county is excellent, with excellent results. Cornwall is pressing ahead with implementing the Education Reform Act 1988. Despite the problems and under-resourcing that Cornish schools face, the results are good at GCSE and A-level, as is the staying on rate post-16. We pride ourselves on the efficiency and value for money that is achieved by our education service. But the problems that I have been addressing today are real and immediate and cannot be wished away. The money will have to be spent sooner or later. The present spiral that we are entering is one of decline, and I hope that the Minister will accept that that needs to be reversed. As I said earlier, I hope that the Minister will agree to meet a delegation from the county, no doubt with other hon. Members who represent Cornwall, which will seek to press the immediate problems of the announcement on capital spending.
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives) : I welcome the debate, and I am grateful for this opportunity to say a few words. I should be glad to join any delegation that my hon. Friend the Minister of State might care to receive. I very much hope that a delegation will come to London to see her and talk about Cornwall's problems. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) has outlined some of them. He was right to emphasise Cornwall's legacy of outdated Victorian schools, particularly in the villages.
The problem cannot be laid entirely at the Government's door. Mr. Matthew Taylor indicated assent.
Mr. Harris : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me about that. It arises, in part, because of Cornwall's previous priorities. It used most of its building resources on secondary education, with the result that some village schools have been neglected. The hon. Member for Truro referred to the pressure on the school hall in Mevagissey. There are several village schools in my constituency that do not have school halls. I am thinking in particular of Breage school near Porthleven. That school faced closure a few years ago. It is now flourishing, thanks to the head teacher's inspired leadership and the backing of the staff. The school is literally bulging at the seams in an old building that has not been modernised this century.
A delegation ought to come to see the Minister about Cornwall's capital building programme. I share the hon.
Column 651Gentleman's disappointment that it did not feature more prominently in yesterday's announcement. He referred to the education authority's request that the capital building programme should be increased to £18 million, but the county council knows perfectly well that that is an unrealistic bid ; it would be horrified if it were given permission to spend £18 million. It could not finance it. Therefore, it submitted a high figure in the hope of attracting a realistic increase. I hope that it will be allowed to spend more than the £6.5 million increase that has been allocated to it.
There is a tendency in this place and throughout the country to say that underfunding is the Government's fault. All of us would like more money to be spent on education. The hon. Member for Truro will join me in another debate to argue for more spending on Cornwall's health services. We are both fighting the case for the air ambulance, for example. One has to apreciate the Government's problems over managing the national budget. There is also a local problem over managing Cornwall's education budget.
I am told that during the last three years Cornwall education authority has overspent its budget. According to reliable information, I also understand that this year it is likely to overspend by £1.5 million. Consequently, it is now having to make cuts. It has cut £500,000 on the repair and maintenance of the kind of schools to which the hon. Gentleman and I have referred. It has also cut £450,000 from the school transport budget. That creates problems in rural areas such as those that the hon. Gentleman and I represent.
We should consider the reasons for overspending. I am told that the overspend on education officers' car allowances is about £136,000. That is nothing to do with the Government ; it is Cornwall education authority's problem. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's general case, but I do not believe that all the blame should be laid at the Government's door. Cornwall education authority, at county hall, must, where this is needed, put its house in order.
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : I have listened carefully to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) and my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). It is important to start by saying that any delegation that asks to see a Minister normally receives a courteous reply and an answer to that request in the affirmative.
It is right to remind the House that the level of education spending in any local education authority, whether for recurrent or for capital expenditure, is not directly under the Government's control, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives said. Local authorities decide their own priorities and direct their budgets accordingly. It is therefore the Cornwall local education authority, and ultimately the voters of Cornwall, to whom the hon. Member for Truro needs to direct most of his animus.
Recurrent funding accounts for teachers' salaries and other running costs for schools will be delegated to most schools under the local management of schools provision in the Education Reform Act 1988. I am delighted to hear
Column 652that Cornwall is pressing ahead in implementing reforms under that Act. I am sure that many of the points made by the hon. Member for Truro on the funding of individual schools and the pressures placed on teachers, especially head teachers, will be alleviated by the introduction of the local management of schools provision. That has proved to be the case in pilot schemes. We are convinced that there will be more effective spending and that, therefore, available funds will go further and buy more.
The critical issue for Cornwall's funding, as for all other authorities, is the level of its education standard spending assessment. As I am sure the hon. Member for Truro knows, the SSA takes the place in the new finance system that was occupied by the grant-related expenditure assessment in the old system : it is the figure at which the Government consider that an appropriate and standard level of service could be provided by the authority. The total of all SSAs for all local authority services is the level at which the charging authority will be able to levy the community charge for standard spending--£278 before contribution to or receipt from the transitional safety net. The SSA takes account of the numbers of pupils, students, adults and children under five deemed to be in receipt of the authority's services. It also gives weight to the particular circumstances of each authority. In Cornwall's case, that is important because the SSA places more emphasis on the costs of providing education services in sparse areas than the GRE did. Cornwall has the fifth highest sparsity index in the country and is therefore a beneficiary of this change.
In 1990-91, Cornwall's education SSA will be 8 per cent. above its education GRE for 1989-90--a rise broadly in line with the change for most LEAs. However, the SSA will also be 16 per cent. above Cornwall's education budget for 1989-90, as reported on the form RER--the report that comes back to the Department of Education and Science from the local authority--and this means that the authority should find no difficulty in coping with the new finance system, at least through its recurrent education expenditure. This is a reflection--the hon. Member for Truro drew attention to this point--of the authority's past prudence and efficiency. I hope that the local authority, despite the view of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives on part of its expenditure, will continue to look carefully at how it budgets.
On the more general question of capital resources for schools, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State secured a substantial increase for local authority capital and for grants to
voluntary-aided and grant-maintained schools in the current year's public expenditure round. Details for individual LEAs were announced yesterday, and I shall come to Cornwall's position in a moment. I should like first to make some general points on the Government's approach to work on school buildings.
The big increase in funds available will allow local education authorities and governing bodies to continue their programme of improvements to schools, including preparation for the national curriculum and following the guidelines of the 1981 regulations that are currently being looked at. We are making available for new improvement work alone a four-and-a-half- times increase in the equivalent sum made available last year. That amply demonstrates the importance we attach to capital spending on schools.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives is right in saying that if by any chance the sums of money put in by
Column 653the local education authorities for capital spending had been allocated, they would have found considerable difficulty in managing to achieve spending on that level.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : I understand the Minister's point. However, there is a degree of cynicism in the local education authorities since we have received approximately two thirds of what we asked for, and so has the average authority nationally. There is a suspicion that more attention has been paid to cutting the bid down by two thirds than to what is required by any individual authority.
Mrs. Rumbold : I must quickly dispel that misapprehension. A careful study of the capital allocations throughout the country will reveal that it is by no means the case that local authorities have received two thirds of what they bid for. Would that it were so in my local authority's case.
I should not give the impression that everything necessary can be done at once, or that what we are making available will meet all the spending needs identified by all local education authorities. A great deal needs to be done to the fabric of schools all over the country to bring them up to scratch and to make them fit for the delivery of the high standards of education to which parents and teachers alike aspire, which our children deserve, and which we believe that our education reforms will achieve. Local education authorities have in recent years added to that substantially from receipts generated by sale of education assets-- typically school sites sold as part of reorganisation--by the use of revenue funds, and grant from the Department in the case of voluntary-aided schools. Of course, there is never enough to satisfy the full needs that people put forward. It is important to remind the House that the numbers of pupils, and thus of schools, have been falling for the past 10 years. Capital spending per pupil has nevertheless increased by 10 per cent. in real terms over the past 10 years. We recognise that more needs to be done, and it is against that background that we have announced the big increase in annual capital guidelines and grant to governors of voluntary-aided schools.
As in recent years, priority has been given first to meeting committed expenditure on projects outstanding from previous years. This year we have uprated these sums by a realistic figure to allow for inflation, which should go a long way to meet complaints from LEAs that inflation has been insufficiently allowed for. Priority is next given to meeting the cost of new school places in areas of population growth. There must be places in schools for all children who require them. Priority is then given to projects designed to remove surplus places. That is because more efficient use of buildings releases resources which can be recycled for the benefit of the rest of the education system in the local authority concerned. Funds are then allocated, by means of an objective formula, for school improvements, and it is in this area that we have been able to distribute a four-and-a-half-fold increase compared with last year.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : I am sorry to interrupt the Minister again. She is aware that the amount needed to bring us up to the Government's target levels for 1991 is many times greater than that allocated to the county council and well below what it could usefully spend, whatever the arguments about the bid put in. We will not meet those targets. How does the Minister answer parents and teachers on that point?
Mrs. Rumbold : Those guidelines were laid down in regulations in 1981. It is clearly recognised that in past years requirements to be met under those regulations have changed. It is in light of that that we are currently reviewing those regulations to see whether we can ease the requirements for local authorities.
Mrs. Rumbold : That is not what I am saying. We are reviewing the needs as we perceive them now. They are generated by a different set of circumstances, principally the Education Reform Act 1988. We are considering the guidelines to see how schools, particularly small schools, can be accommodated within the terms of the 1981 guidelines.
We have talked about the overall total guideline for Cornwall, which is £6.522 million, of which the apportionment is £5.557 million for schools and £965,000 for further education. That represents some 35 per cent. of the authority's total bid and this proportion, I should emphasise, is exactly the national average for all LEAs in this exercise. But the settlement for Cornwall fits the national pattern not only in terms of arithmetical proportion, but in the more general sense that, while it does not meet all the authority's objectives--I am clear about that--it will allow for significant progress to continue in the improvement and adaptation of its schools and colleges.
I have already mentioned that the guidelines should not be seen as the sum total of what is available to authorities for capital expenditure on education ; they are more a catalyst to which can be added other resources such as capital receipts, and other sums made available by virement from other resources at the disposal of county councils. I am glad to see, from an observation of the educational spending patterns of recent years, that Cornwall makes significant use of those flexibilities.
In the voluntary-aided sector, we have met in full the considerable bid for committed expenditure of over £1 million. The authority's bid for new works was entirely in respect of minor works, and here we have made available a sum of £90,000, which should enable the authority, at its discretion and, no doubt, in consultation with the dioceses concerned, to start a number of planned works at primary schools in the coming year. I hope that that news is welcomed by hon. Members. In further education, the authority received an allocation for its sole bid for a new major building project.
The other subject that the hon. Gentleman raised was teachers' morale. I am familiar with the contents of the letter that he has received from the National Association of Head Teachers and other organisations. We recognise the extremely hard work put in by teachers throughout the country. We welcome their devotion to their work and acknowledge a debt of gratitude to them especially as they have undertaken the introduction of the Education Reform Act 1988. The implementation of the national curriculum and other new provisions place a great demand on teachers.
We have been at pains to make it clear that teachers deserve both recognition and respect for their professionalism and commitment. Teaching is an attractive career. Some 25,000 people enter or re-enter the profession each