Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420-439)

RT HON GORDON BROWN, MR JON CUNLIFFE, MR DAVE RAMSDEN, MR MARK NEALE, MS MRIDUL BRIVATI AND MR MICHAEL ELLAM

13 DECEMBER 2006

  Q420  Mr Gauke: This is not to do with the particular numbers, Chancellor. Imagine you are an economics tutor explaining to a dim undergraduate, and I am the dim undergraduate. If public expenditure is falling as a percentage of GDP, is that a cut in public spending?

  Mr Brown: I think you will have to wait until you see the results of the review. Then you may be quite surprised.

  Q421  Mr Mudie: Chancellor, I will come back to education but I want to ask you a question under fairness for pensioners. Last week the Social Care Commission reported that 100 out of 150 providers (I presume local authorities) are no longer providing home help care to the elderly, unless under very extreme conditions, which means thousands and thousands of old people are not getting home help. In my constituency the Evening Post carried a front page story yesterday of a 94-year-old war hero in a wheelchair who has been assessed as not needing a home help. He gets by with a 78-year-old woman next-door to him, who has osteoarthritis, doing his cleaning. Now, when I raised this with the council they blamed the Government; they say either cuts or they have been encouraged by the Government to cut back on home helps. Can you enlighten us as to this, because it is a totally unacceptable situation? I am regularly meeting elderly ladies in their late-70s who, years ago, would have qualified without question for a home help and are now neglected.

  Mr Brown: The assessment of who gets home help is not for the Government; the assessment of who needs home help and who does not need home help is a matter for the professionals who make that assessment. I cannot, Mr Mudie, make a judgment as to whether your constituents should or should not have home helps; that is a matter for the proper authorities. What I do know is that the social care budget and the general budget for social services continues to rise.

  Q422  Mr Mudie: So you see no reason why over the years fewer and fewer elderly people are getting home help? The money is there you are saying.

  Mr Brown: There are more elderly people in the population, and many of them are very fit indeed. When people need home help that is assessed by the proper authorities. I cannot make a judgment from here—

  Q423  Mr Mudie: Of course you cannot.

  Mr Brown: about whether people need this home help and are deprived of it or not. What I do know is that the social care budget continues to rise.

  Q424  Mr Mudie: So you reckon if an elderly person, 94 and in a wheelchair, with nobody else in the household, is judged as not needing home help, it is not financial reasons; you think the council have the money but they are setting the criteria at a level. Do you accept that level?

  Mr Brown: I cannot judge this case. All I know is that I know 90-year-old pensioners who are getting home help in, certainly, my constituency, and I think in other constituencies around the country. I think you will find that these assessments are made on an individual basis. Obviously, the social care budget continues to rise and I hope that people who need home help will get it.

  Q425  Mr Mudie: That is a step forward. I asked your officials, I think probably unfairly because it was cold—no warnings—for some figures, but you have now had 24 hours and I am sure the worthy Jon, on your left, has provided you with the figures. He is looking a bit worried, but somebody should have. You put two pledges in the PBR (and we are going back to schools). I think you got an answer to Angela wrong; you said something about "every school over 15 years is eligible." If you look closely it is over 15 years, half of primary schools and half of secondary schools will either be refurbished or rebuilt. The first thing is what is the starting year for that 15-year pledge?

  Mr Brown: That has already started.

  Q426  Mr Mudie: I know, but we do not know—and we simply ask you—which is the starting year?

  Mr Brown: You will find that the two statements are right. One is that the schools—

  Q427  Mr Mudie: The two statements are right.

  Mr Brown: which are eligible for the refurbishment that is taking place under this programme are mainly schools that are over 15 years old. So schools that have been built in the last 15 years do not need the level of refurbishment that we are talking about. The second point, however, that you are making is that there is wave one already of the Building Schools for the Future programme; it was launched in February 2004 in the SR204 period (that is between 2004 and 2007) and £2 billion a year has been spent on this programme. This programme then moves into higher gear, contrary to what was being suggested by the previous question, and more money is spent each year on the school programme in future years as you move from waves one to three, which covers 38 local authorities, to the next wave of authorities in future years and then you have got the secondary school programme as well as the primary school programme.

  Q428  Mr Mudie: I am not sure where that leaves us. The primary school refurbishment/rebuild, 15-year programme, started in 2004; secondary started in 2004. Do we know how many primary schools we have? Do we know how many secondary schools we have? Therefore, if we have both figures we know how many schools should be in the programme. Do we know? We did not yesterday.

  Mr Brown: I thought it was something in the order of 31,000 schools.

  Q429  Mr Mudie: Do they not brief you beforehand, Chancellor?

  Mr Brown: Three thousand one hundred of the 3,500 secondary schools—

  Q430  Mr Mudie: Can you slow down because we are trying to get this on the record. How many primary schools and how many secondary schools?

  Mr Brown: For secondary schools it is 3,100 of 3,500 secondary schools, and I will give you in a minute the figure for primary schools. Twenty-thousand primary schools exist in the country. I think 90% are covered by this programme.

  Q431  Mr Mudie: Let us take secondary, to start with. The officials can catch up with you on primary. It is usually the other way round. That means you are committed in Budget terms to rebuilding or refurbishing 1,500 secondary schools in 15 years.

  Mr Brown: I am saying about secondary schools that 3,100 schools come within this programme.

  Q432  Mr Mudie: I will settle for that. That means we have 6,000 secondary schools and the programme is to do half of them over 15 years.

  Mr Brown: I am saying that the number of schools covered in the secondary programme is 3,100. I may have to correct that.

  Q433  Mr Mudie: I will settle for that figure. We have this absolutely difficult job of scrutinising public expenditure, and it does not help when the Treasury will not give us figures on just a simple thing like the number of secondary schools in the country.

  Mr Brown: The figure I have here, which is a figure I read out in the House of Commons, is overall around 3,100 of the 3,500 secondary schools in England will benefit from Building Schools for the Future.

  Q434  Mr Mudie: I will settle for us being sent a note by your officials about how many schools. That means either 1,500 or 3,000. You have started the programme for three years. How many have you done in the three years? We are tired of these programmes of 10-15 years that do not seem to meet the targets. I am asking, after three years, where are you? Are you on target?

  Mr Brown: Waves one to three cover 38 local authorities, which is a quarter of all local authorities, and nearly 400 schools, mainly in the deprived areas of the country, are now under way for the BSF programme.

  Q435  Mr Mudie: We are in some difficulty here because we do not know how many schools. Again, I presume, you will not object to providing us with a note of how many schools are in both programmes and what was the estimated cost of that programme?

  Mr Brown: Three thousand one hundred are in the full BSF programme. The number of primary schools in the country is 20,000, and I have said that half the primary schools in the country are covered by that.

  Q436  Mr Mudie: Chancellor, I would be happy with a note. One of the things I am perturbed about is you have this programme and this budget and then last week, a week before your PBR was published, the Prime Minister doubled the number of academies, thereby upping the programme by £5 billion. Is that in your future public expenditure figures?

  Mr Brown: Yes, the figures for secondary schools will include city academies.

  Q437  Mr Mudie: Can you tell us, what is the average figure for secondary school rebuild or refurbishment compared with the £25 million for the academies?

  Mr Brown: I think £25 million is the cost of one or two of the academies. I do not think—

  Q438  Mr Mudie: One was 30, Chancellor.

  Mr Brown: I do not think it is necessarily the cost of future academies, but the 3,500 secondary schools include academies, and 3,100 are to be renovated, and that will include academies.

  Q439  Mr Mudie: In other words, if we just sum this all up, can we get a note in the next few days from your officials about the number, the costings, the estimated cost and the spending and completions to date broken down by sector? That would be very useful.

  Mr Brown: Yes, I think we will get a note from the Department of Education that we will pass to you.


 
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