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GUMMER APPEARS TO AGREE WITH ACA REVIEW OPPONENTS

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Environment secretary John Gummer told the Commons yesterday that all four local authority associations have expres...
Environment secretary John Gummer told the Commons yesterday that all four local authority associations have expressed 'reservations' over the independent review into the area cost adjustment, and they have asked for further work.

'I will consider the representations after my meeting with them tomorrow' he said.

David Lidington, Conservative MP for Aylesbury, said local authorities in the south east like Buckinghamshire thought the ACA should be enhanced rather than reduced, and he asked Mr Gummer to 'look seriously at implementing the report'

'It is unusual for all the local authority associations to express similar reservations, with differing degrees of intensity, about the difficulty of implementing a report,' replied Mr Gummer

'Therefore, I think that it is proper to listen to them carefully. I understand my honourable friend's view and the report makes some very interesting points. However, I do not think that we should rush ahead without hearing what the local authorities have to say.'

Mr Gummer agreed with High Peak Tory colleague Charles Hendry who said that the review appeared to be fundamentally flawed because is did not take the whole range of incomes into account, particularly public sector salaries. In order to achieve changes which would 'commend themselves to the House as a whole and would remain in place for a reasonable period' those points needed to be taken into account, the secretary of state said. He noted that these points were only one of the issues raised by the associations.

Cambridge Labour MP Anne Campbell said that the independent review team concluded that Cambridgeshire should be spending an extra £10m this year. 'Does he (Mr Gummer) still think it was justified for the government to impose a capping limit on Cambridgeshire at its SSA with that sort of evidence in place?' she asked

Mr Gummer insisted the capping should stay.

He declared: 'I have to say to the honourable lady that the system which we maintain is a fair and reasonable system, and Cambridge(shire) was warned that if it behaved in a way which sort to gain money from the rest of the community outside that system it would be capped. And capped it was'.

Later on in environment question time, minister Paul Beresford said detailed research on sparsity showed there was 'no need at present for any radical changes to standard spending assessment formulae.'

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