Provision for the pensioner and the needs of the education services are the Conservative Government's two top priorities for public expenditure. The education budget will continue to be one of the fastest growing budgets in the public sector.
We now have 80,000 more teachers than four years ago, and next year we expect to have another 20,000 bringing the increase over a five year period to 100,000. Nevertheless, problems remain; we have not enough teachers in certain subjects, mathematics, science, handicrafts, and home economics; these problems are particularly acute in the London area. The whole question of London Allowance, the way it is calculated, and the area to which it should apply, has been referred to the Pay Board, and we shall act on the report as soon as we receive it.
We gave an interim increase last October of about 9%; in the students grants. These, including grants paid to married women students, are now being reviewed, and changes will be announced in the spring. The older method of a 3 year review of grants is now outdated. We shall therefore move to an annual review.
We shall again reduce the amount which parents on a given income are expected to contribute. We attach particular importance to this because some parents do not contribute the assessed amount, and the student is then left in financial difficulty. [end p1]
After the economies announced by the Anthony BarberChancellor of the Exchequer before Christmas have been taken into account, we shall still be increasing the amount spent by local education authorities next year by over £60 million. Including expenditure on universities, the total education expenditure will be £3,500 million next year. [end p2](2) Barnet Press, 23 February 1974
The parties take to the streets
At the start of this crisis General Election there was much talk about grass root politics.
It's a well-worn cliche but in the past week the word has had some meaning in the Finchley Constituency.
Each of the three candidates have taken to the streets and talked to the voters about the problems and troubles behind this election.
Education Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher toured Church End Finchley. North Finchley and Whetstone on Saturday morning. In her wake came Labour candidate Cr. Martin O'Connor and Liberal Laurence Brass.
Cr. O'Connor went to East Finchley, too, where his support is stronger than the rest of the constituency. Certainly this is the district which sent him to the Barnet Council chamber three years ago.
Meanwhile Mr. Brass has been street campaigning each day and last Friday made a tour of Finchley primary schools and talked to parents and teachers.
Afterwards at the local Liberal headquarters in the home of chairman Mr. Len Watkins in Alexandra Grove, North Finchley, Mr. Brass told me the tour had been a success. He reported growing support for the Liberals in the past week.
Said Mr. Watkins: “There is no doubt that the trends we are seeing at the moment suggest that it is a two-horse race between us and the Tories.”
And Mr. Brass, himself, has said: “I still cannot believe the returns we are receiving from canvassing. The results are incredible. I'm still pinching myself over the success of the campaign.”
During the week this 26-year-old solicitor has been holding “surgery” sessions.
His campaign next week will include visits to old people's homes, hospitals and his usual street campaigning.
But he has been disappointed, too. He was chosen to represent the Liberals in a radio programme on Capital Radio on Tuesday evening but it clashed with his only public meeting.
But there is the hope that the commercial radio station will run a similar programme next week when Mr. Brass will be able to attend.
Behind his campaign is agent Mr. David Harris who has been involved in electioneering for some years. He came late into the Finchley campaign because until last Tuesday evening he hoped to be picked to fight for the Liberals in one of the St. Pancras constituencies.
Said Mr. Harris: “I do not remember a campaign in which so many people have come to help and we have had so many offers of help.”
But while Mr. Brass has been rushing around the constituency Mrs. Thatcher has had a string of public meetings in which she has stressed vehemently the case for keeping a Tory Government.
However, she ran into some trouble on Monday evening when a militant group of teachers attempted to shout her down at a meeting in St. Mary's Hall, Church End Finchley.
But her political charisma and the experience of the last 15 years kept her in control of the situation.
In two meetings during the last week she has broadened her campaign but has repeated the pros and cons of this election.
Last Wednesday evening while speaking at a packed public meeting in St. John's Hall, Whetstone, she elaborated on her adoption speech of two days earlier.
She stressed the Government's case over the miners' strike and said they should have accepted the wage offer made by Mr. Whitelaw and his team.
She criticised the alleged £4,000 to £6,000 million Labour would spend and said the Socialists' housing programme was an exercise in irresponsibility.
At question time she said she would like to see capital punishment re-introduced but only as a deterrent.
In a rapidly organised public meeting in St. Philip's Hall, Church End Finchley, on Monday, Cr. O'Connor spoke on housing and education and criticised the Tory Government and Mrs. Thatcher over the current problems in schools.
He said parents had “an agony of choice” in Finchley because the area, unlike the rest of the borough, had not become fully involved in comprehensive education.
He also called for building land to be nationalised. It could ease the desperate housing waiting lists throughout the country, he said.
Cr. O'Connor is to have an eve of poll meeting in Christ Church Hall, North Finchley, and Mrs. Thatcher will address a meeting in Moss Hall School, North Finchley.
And Mr. Brass will be out in the streets continuing his grass roots campaign.