HC Deb 09 November 1966 vol 735 cc1288-9
7. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland by what percentage the amount of revenue raised in rates by Scottish local authorities in respect of the year 1966–67 will exceed the amount raised in respect of the year 1965–66.

24. Mr. Clark Hutchison

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the average increase in rates in Scotland during the current year; and which were the highest and lowest.

Dr. Mabon

On present information, I estimate that the amount of revenue raised in rates by Scottish local authorities has risen in the current year by about 16.5 per cent. The range is from an increase of 57 per cent. to a reduction of 15.6 per cent.

Mr. Taylor

Is not this a staggering figure in view of the promise by the Under-Secretary of State that he was exhorting local authorities to be prudent in their spending this year? Why have these representations failed, and precisely what does he intend to do about it?

Dr. Mabon

I do not agree that the representations have failed, although I hope to get the hon. Member's support for one point here. The figure in 1961 was 19 per cent., and there was not then, as there is this year, an increase in teachers' salaries, which accounts this year—let us be fair—to 3 per cent. In the Government's opinion, another 9 per cent. or so can be regarded as due to the expansion and improvement of local services. But I agree with the hon. Member and other critics of local authorities that there seems to us to be a tendency in a revaluation year—and we think that this might amount to 4 or 5 per cent. this time—to put on additional projects and improvements. I have appealed to local authorities not to indulge in this practice.

Mr. Hutchison

Does the Minister realise that this rate burden weighs heavily on many people who are not at all well off, and that this increase in rates and prices is quite contrary to what was promised at the General Election? If the hon. Member cannot deal with it, why does he not resign?

Dr. Mabon

I did not notice any antagonism on the other side of the House to the teachers' salary awards. I cannot see how people can quarrel with the 9 per cent. which is due to the expansion of services, and we have certainly heard nothing to that end. It seems a perfectly fair point that local authorities must have these forward planning programmes. There is nothing here which the Government have accepted which is not reasonable, except for the comments which I made towards the end of that reply. The Rating (Interim Relief) Act, which was passed in the last Parliament, has now been very much welcomed by lower-paid workers and those with small fixed incomes.

Mr. Baxter

As my hon. Friend's appeal to the local authorities has not been very effective, what further action is he proposing to take about it?

Dr. Mabon

We are in a much stronger position in relation to future matters because of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill, which will be discussed later today, and, under the rate support grant machinery, which we will also discuss later, we are in a position to influence these matters much more effectively than hon. Gentlemen opposite ever did.