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BEECHAM WARNS OF SOCIAL SERVICES CUTS

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The government must not boost education spending by slashing funding for other services, Association of Metropolita...
The government must not boost education spending by slashing funding for other services, Association of Metropolitan Authorities chair Sir Jeremy Beecham warned ministers this week.

Sir Jeremy told ministers at Monday's meeting of the Consultative Council for Local Government Finance that he feared social services, the biggest local government service after education, would be targeted for cuts to compensate for any more education spending.

'There was public outrage at the scale of the education cuts this year. There will be public outrage again next year if community care is underfunded to protect education. The needs of the elderly, infirm and mentally ill must be met in full. They cannot be treated as a treasury bargaining tool to keep down public expenditure,' Sir Jeremy said.

Capital expenditure was not a soft target for cuts either, Sir Jeremy added, because allowing further deterioration in building stock would be a false economy. He hoped the debate on capital spending would be conducted without recourse to the misleading figures on local authority debt published by Conservative Party chairman Dr Brian Mawhinney.

Mr Gummer promised to do his best to ensure local government was not 'short changed'. He declined to say if capping was going to be abolished.

The local authority side demanded a more acceptable system for determining the area cost adjustment element of council funding. Mr Gummer said he hoped local government minister David Curry would offer some ways forward when he met the association chairs on 16 October.

After the meeting Association of District Councils chair Peter Greenwood wrote to Mr Gummer stressing the need for ministers to maintain spending on the 'other services' block which covers most district expenditure. The associations' joint submission on funding showed other services needed the highest increase in spending for any spending block other than social services, he said.

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