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MINISTER FAILS TO ANSWER SCOTTISH SETTLEMENT QUESTIONS

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Arthur Midwinter, of the University of Strathclyde's department of government, has accused Jack McConnell, the Scot...
Arthur Midwinter, of the University of Strathclyde's department of government, has accused Jack McConnell, the Scottish finance minister, of failing to address two key questions raised in his observations on the 'tweaking' of local authority grants.

In a letter to The Herald (p19), Professor Midwinter asks: 'Where is the evidence that the existing allowances for poverty, which are derived mathematically from statistical evidence of causality, are inadequate?

'Secondly, why has he applied these allowances selectively, ignoring the significant numbers of people in poverty in those authorities not favoured with a special allowance?'

Prof Midwinter continues: 'His rhetoric would be more credible if his government had a better record on local government finance. While its own budget has been allowed to grow by 2% per annum in real terms, its grant to local authorities next year will, by its own calculation, be some£54m less than the level inherited from the Conservatives in 1997-98.

'The reality is that he has made a subjective decision to favour some councils. If Ian Lang had announced a special sparsity allowance without the grant formula, Labour would have cried foul.'

He concludes: 'I hope that Liberal Democrat members of the executive will join their colleagues who are opposing the settlement, to deliver an equitable system for all authorities.'

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