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PM QUIZZED OVER LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLICY

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Interviewed exclusively in the East Anglian Daily Times (p26), prime minister John Major was asked if there is caus...
Interviewed exclusively in the East Anglian Daily Times (p26), prime minister John Major was asked if there is cause for local authorities to be concerned about budget cuts.

'If you look back to the same time last year and the year before that, you will find the same sort of cries from local authorities,' said Mr Major.

'We are coming to the time when there is the determination of what the budget is for local government and how it is divided up and all over the country local authorities are saying: 'we need more this year and we have been discriminated against.'

'It is not unique to Suffolk and Essex.

'I am sure they would like extra money but in the interests of the tax call generally, there is going to be a limited amount and it will be determined on the criteria we always use.

'There will only be large rises in council tax if local authorities increase their expenditure. If you actually look at the education spending formula, it goes up in Suffolk and Essex by 5.6 per cent and 4.9 per cent.

'That is way above the rate of inflation. But the councils are threatening cuts in teachers. It does not add up.

'The truth is they are playing politics and they know that. Most people will recognise that is what they are doing. In the current year, spending by councils is set to rise by 3.5 per cent, when inflation is under 2.5 per cent and government departments are being asked to make large savings.'

Mr Major defended the use of CCTV, despite the refusal of financial help for Colchester to install the cameras in the city centre.

'CCTV in towns was my idea,' he told the paper.

'If the people of Colchester look elsewhere in Essex, they will see successful bids accepted in Chelmsford, Witham, Brightlingsea, Billericay, Basildon and Harlow.

'As far as Colchester is concerned, more money is going to be available in 1997-98 and I hope Colchester competes and is successful. Colchester will get a scheme. It is a question of how soon.'

The full text of the paper's interview with the PM is available from LGCNet. Tel 0171 833 7324.

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