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Mr. Rendel: I did not say that.

Mr. Hutton: I realise that, but the hon. Gentleman has failed properly to address the important factor of relationship to need in the social services spending formula. He talked at length about per capita allocations. That is a deeply, deeply regressive way to allocate resources. The only way to deal with the point that the hon. Gentleman made would be either to increase the overall resources available to social services—something to which the Conservatives are not committed and I should be surprised to hear detailed figures from the hon. Gentleman—or to redistribute resources to areas such as West Berkshire away from areas of greater need. That is simply not a viable way to address the acknowledged deficiencies in the local government funding formula.

Clearly, we need to consider carefully what the new research on SSAs will show, but I strongly expect that any new formula introduced in 2003–04 would still need to take account of the social care needs of an area as measured by the level of deprivation, rather than—as the hon. Gentleman implied—a stricter per capita basis.

The hon. Gentleman asked why West Berkshire was named by the Secretary of State as one of the poorest performers on the basis of the social services performance indicators when joint review and SSI reports seemed to indicate that the council was doing well.

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It is important to clarify exactly what was said. The joint review and SSI reports did not say that the council is doing well, so there is no inconsistency with the Secretary of State's announcement based on the indicators. Both reports said that the council is serving only some people well. To be clear, those reports use a four-point scale to summarise their judgments on current performance: not serving people well; serving some people well; serving most people well; and overall serving people well. The hon. Gentleman's description of the conclusions of the reports is not accurate.

In this context—

Mr. Rendel rose

Mr. Hutton: I have only two minutes left. The hon. Gentleman took 17 minutes to make his point, so I think that I should conclude my remarks. In this context, it is clear that to say that West Berkshire is serving some people well means that a great deal of progress still needs to be made. That is borne out in the detail of the reports.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State rightly identified West Berkshire as one of 14 poorly performing councils because, over the past three years taken together, its performance against the indicators was poor. In the most recent year, only 56 per cent.—just over half—of the available indicators showed acceptable performance or better. Performance on the others was not acceptable.

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The situation has clearly improved slightly, but it still, notwithstanding those improvements, places West Berkshire near the bottom against the indicators.

Mr. Rendel: They are ridiculous indicators.

Mr. Hutton: They are not ridiculous indicators, and they are based on information supplied by the relevant authorities to the council. The hon. Gentleman highlighted one indicator: re-registrations on the child protection register. That indicator tries to identify inefficient practice in removing children from the register and reinstating them later, because that is not a good use of resources or necessarily a good indicator of practice.

Mr. Rendel: What about too few?

Mr. Hutton: Similarly, too few also gives cause for concern.

Mr. Rendel: Why?

Mr. Hutton: Unfortunately, we do not have time to have a debate about—

The motion having been made after half-past Two o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

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