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21 Feb 2005 : Column 338W—continued

Local Government Finance

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Deputy min Minister what level of balances his Department assesses as reasonable for each of the tiers of local authorities to retain in their budgets; and if he will make a statement. [216122]

Mr. Raynsford: It is for each local authority to decide for itself the level of balances it should hold in the light of the financial risks and circumstances affecting it. In doing so members should take account of the views of their chief finance officer, in accordance with section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003. It would not therefore be appropriate for central Government to specify reasonable levels of balances for tiers of local authorities.

Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Deputy min Minister what the change in the per capita grant was for (a) Worcestershire and (b) Worcester City between (i) 1993–94 and 1997–98 and (ii) 1997–98 and 2004–05. [216576]

Mr. Raynsford: The per capita grant for Hereford and Worcester between 1993–94 and 1997–98 showed a decrease of 38 per head. Hereford & Worcester authority was abolished on 31 March 1998. The change in per capita grant for Worcestershire between 1998–99 and 2004–05 was an increase of £233 per head.

The per capita grant for Worcester City increased by £2 per head between 1993–94 and 1997–98 and between 1997–98 and 2004–05 increased by £21 per head.

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Deputy min Minister what population statistics he relied upon in setting the revenue support grant for Stafford borough council for 2005–06; and what representations he has received about the accuracy of those statistics. [216896]

Mr. Raynsford: The 2005–06 Revenue Support Grant was calculated using the 2003 mid-year population estimates produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). During the consultation period, representations were received from 17 local authorities plus the Association of London Government (ALG) commenting on the accuracy of the population estimates.

Mr. Reed: To ask the Deputy min Minister what the (a) cash and (b) percentage funding variance of Leicestershire county council from the county council (i) Standard Spending Assessment and (ii) Education Funding Assessment average was in each year between 1998 and 2004–05. [216930]

Mr. Raynsford: The information requested is tabled as follows:
Total standard spending assessment/total formula spending share
LeicestershireAverage shire countyChange from averagePercentage change from average

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Education standard spending assessment/education formula spending share
LeicestershireAverage shire countyChange from averagePercentage change from average

Interpreting this information is difficult. It is complicated by the fact that shire counties differ considerably with respect to the number of people for which services are provided. For this reason amounts per head are often used to compare one authority against another. An equivalent table showing amounts per head is tabled as follows:
Total standard spending assessment per head/total formula spending share per head
LeicestershireAverage shire countyChange from averagePercentage change from average
1999–2000620.05655. 72-35.68-5.4
2002–03672. 18721.15-48.97-6.8

Education standard spending assessment per head/education formula spending share per head
LeicestershireAverage shire countyChange from averagePercentage change from average

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Deputy min Minister what the total amount of (a) council tax raised by and (b) central Government grant paid to Sevenoaks district council was in (i) 1996–97 and (ii) 2003–04. [216034]

Mr. Raynsford: The information is as follows:

(a) Sevenoaks district council set a council tax requirement (excluding parish precepts) of £2.860 million for 1996–97 and £6.308 million for 2003–04.
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(b) Sevenoaks district council received £6.860 million in revenue grants for 1996–97. The budgeted figure for 2003–04 was £6.740 million. These figures are as reported by the local authority and include special and specific grants inside Aggregate External Finance, revenue support grant and redistributed non-domestic rates.

Because of changes in local authority responsibilities in the intervening period, such comparisons are not statistically valid.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy min Minister what assessment he has made of the practicalities of introducing a local income tax whose rates could be varied by county, district and parish councils; and if he will make a statement. [215006]

Mr. Raynsford: Local income tax (LIT) was one of the options for the reform of local government funding in England considered by the Balance of Funding Review which reported in July 2004. Copies of the report are available in the Library of the House. Working papers of the review are available on the website of the Office of the Deputy min Minister.

In looking at LIT, the review found that there are a number of potentially serious risks and disadvantages that would need to be considered in detail, including the potential additional costs that the system could impose. A LIT could be potentially complex to administer and its effects on individuals or employers would also need to be examined with great care. The review concluded that council tax should be retained but reformed and that any further work on LIT should proceed on the basis that it is a supplement to, not a replacement for, council tax.

The Government agreed with the review's conclusion that council tax should be retained but reformed. It has appointed Sir Michael Lyons to undertake an independent inquiry that will consider, in the light of the report by Balance of Funding Review, the detailed case for changes to the present system of local government funding and make recommendations on any changes that are necessary and how to implement them. The inquiry will, among other things, conduct thorough analysis of options other than council tax for local authorities to raise supplementary revenue, including LIT, reform of non-domestic rates and other possible local taxes and charges, as well as the possible combination of such options. Sir Michael will report by the end of 2005.

Millennium Dome

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy min Minister if he will commission an external valuation of the Government's remaining interest in the Millennium Dome site, including the current value of its future expected receipts under the sale contract. [216612]

Keith Hill: Independent formal valuations and valuation advice, by retained professionals, have been obtained by English Partnerships as a matter of course throughout the entire sale process in respect of land on the Greenwich Peninsula, and similar advice will continue to be taken on a regular basis as the developments are delivered over time. Appropriate protections and mechanisms are built into the contracts
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between English Partnerships and Meridian Delta Ltd. and Anschutz Entertainment Group to ensure that English Partnerships receives value from money from the transaction, as was verified by the recently published report from the National Audit Office. Regular valuations of English Partnerships' landholdings will also be undertaken as part of English Partnerships' corporate responsibilities to report to Parliament, in its annual report and accounts, the value of assets held.

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