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Crash landing for council finances

FIGURES COMPILED by Strathclyde University's Scottish Local Authorities Management Centre show a diminishing increase in permitted spending on education by councils over the next three years.

The pound;2.433 billion limit for 1998-99 will rise by its maximum of 3.9 per cent in the current year, and then fall back to increases of 1.8 per cent and 1.4 per cent up to 2002. But Government support for local education spending is planned to rise by less in each of the three years - 2.6 per cent, 0.003 per cent and 0.001 per cent.

Colin Mair of the Strathclyde centre believes the council funding system will still cause confusion if it remains unchanged. A key issue for the parliament will be to ensure social factors are taken into account in the distribution of grant to councils.

At present, Mr Mair said, 97 per cent of the money is shared out on the basis of pupil headcount. "Distribution is critical but, at the moment, stupid."

The McIntosh commission, chaired by Neil McIntosh, former chief executive of Strathclyde Region, plans to publish its report during the first week in June, Mr McIntosh told The TES Scotland.

Finance is not part of its remit, but he said the commission had made it clear that "we cannot with credibility produce a report on the relationship between local government and the parliament without considering the impact of finance".

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