HC Deb 06 December 1966 vol 737 cc1121-2
1. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government by how much he expects local authorities to lower the level of rates as the result of the Government's economic measures.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Anthony Greenwood)

I cannot estimate what effect the Government's economic measures will have on rates next year, but I am confident that local authorities will respond to the call to make all proper economies.

Mr. Marten

Is it not the Government's duty to create the conditions in which local authorities can try to lower the level of rates? What are the Government doing about it? Will the abolition of the surcharge, which made rates rise, allow local authorities to bring down rates by that amount?

Mr. Greenwood

The Local Government Bill at present before Parliament will help local authorities substantially to keep rates down. We have also made provision through the rate rebate scheme to help the less well-paid members of the community to shoulder the burden of rates, for the rate burden has been rising steadily as the years have gone by and as services have been expanded and improved.

Mr. Barnes

Will my right hon. Friend agree that rates become fairer the more the burden is shifted from rates to taxation? Will not he consider increasing the extra £30 million that it is proposed to transfer from the Exchequer to local authorities next year?

Mr. Greenwood

The first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question raises a rather wider issue. On the second point, I regret that the answer must be "Not at the moment".

Mr. Rippon

Does the Minister agree that, in spite of the relief in the Local Government Bill, such as it is, even if he does not know everyone else knows that the rate bill next year is likely to rise by about 10 per cent., or £120 million? What does he propose to do about it? Since he asks local authorities to keep rents down, why does he not give some advice on how to keep rates down?

Mr. Greenwood

We have given advice of this kind, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware that it will be necessary in this year to meet the further expenditure incurred because of expanded social services provided by local authorities last year. This is the problem which the Tory Government failed to solve. I believe that we are making progress towards solving it.