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CURRY CLAIMS RSGS ARE NOT GERRYMANDERED - CONFERENCE REPORT

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Revenue Support Grants for 1994-95 are 'rational' and 'comprehensive', local government minister, David Curry claim...
Revenue Support Grants for 1994-95 are 'rational' and 'comprehensive', local government minister, David Curry claimed today at the RSG conference in London, held by English local authority associations.

The process of determining RSGs is 'an open system which does not reflect a political judgement and..,is not gerrymandered,' said Mr Curry. The minister was keen to add that the quoted £680m cuts in funding was untrue and based on forecasted figures.

Following Mr Curry, shadow environment secretary, Jack Straw, praised the minister's ability to listen but regretted he had no control over public spending rounds - the Department of Environment had suffered cuts three times greater than other departments, he claimed.

Mr Straw strongly attacked the capping system as 'a cancer which destroys the base of local democracy' and local government must continue to object against it, he said.

Mr Straw said very few industrial countries would make budgeting plans which did not differentiate between central and local government funding. If planned totals were exceeded it was not the clear fault of any side he said. Mr Straw recalled a remark from this year's Conservative party conference that with capping it is impossible to tell the difference in effectiveness in spending between Labour and Conservative controlled councils.

Setting out Labour's agenda, Mr Straw said his party would lower central government funding to 50% and widen the local tax base. Annual elections would act as a referendum against high spending councils.

Peter Martin, Finance director at Kent CC and principle RSG negotiator, said the Total Standard Spending was less than the associations said it needed and the amount required by council tax had increased by a high percentage - particularly higher because of the gearing effect.

Mr Martin said that updating net revenue expenditure to 1990-91 levels had totally overturned gains London boroughs made by the introduction of updated census data in the RSG formulae. A series of seemingly minor changes to indicators had far reaching impacts on many councils, he warned.

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