Tories 'manipulated spending'

18th December 1998 at 00:00
THE Conservative government deliberately manipulated national spending plans to ensure the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority was a success and to reduce the political impact of the poll tax, new research reveals.

It shows that the Tories pumped an extra Pounds 180 million into inner London authorities - equal to about Pounds 750 annually per pupil aged five to 15.

The research, by John Gibson from the school of public policy at Birmingham University, shows the extent to which the Tories were determined to rubbish the ILEA, whose enemies included Kenneth Baker, the former education secretary.

Dr Gibson claims that under the Tories there was a major shift in education standard spending assessments - the government estimate of what should be spent on the service - and with it central grants in favour of inner London. The move, which took place in 1990, coincided with the abolition of the ILEA and the introduction of the poll tax.

Dr Gibson said there was a strong desire among senior members of the then Government and the Conservative party to make their own project - the scrapping of the ILEA - appear as successful as possible.

Norman Tebbit had displayed a keen hostility to the ILEA, and Kenneth Baker's memoirs show that he believed it to be a highly politicised and inefficient authority.

The ILEA was blamed by the Tories for the high proportion of local government "overspending" and this was taken as justification for their manifesto commitment to introduce rate-capping and abolish the GLC.

Conservative ministers have never publicly commented on the huge transfer of cash to inner London.

But Dr Gibson, who has tested statistically the shift of resources, said there was "pure (that is, unadulterated) political manipulation of the education SSAs by the Conservative government in 1990".

He estimated that around 75-80 per cent of the Pounds 180 million extra to inner London was a direct result of the move. He said it was not simply a one-year phenomenon.

"The education SSAs of the inner-London boroughs have been essentially maintained at this new higher level since then and, of course, this has been at the expense of most authorities outside inner London."

Dr Gibson calculates that pupils aged five to 15 outside inner London have lost out, on average, by Pounds 30 a year.

His research appears in the winter issue of Public Administration, available from Blackwell Publishers, tel: 01865 79110, price Pounds 19.

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