HC Deb 25 November 1970 vol 807 cc400-1
29. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in his consultations on the reform of local government; and whether he will now make a further statement.

Mr. Peter Walker

I shall make a further statement as soon as possible.

Mr. Lane

I am glad to hear that. Will my right hon. Friend agree that the need for radical reform of local government is urgent? Will he pay special attention to the wise proposals recently published by the Association of Municipal Corporations and to the importance of bringing town and country closer together and not pushing them further apart?

Mr. Walker

The matter is urgent, and it is very complicated. I shall eventually be consulting all local authority associations, including the A.M.C. and the County Councils Association.

Mr. Crosland

Is the Secretary of State aware of the acute anxiety, not only in the A.M.C. but in all municipalities, at the reports in the Press that we are to have a two-tier system based on a county and county district system? Will he assure us that he has not closed his mind on the form which reorganisation will take and will listen to further representations?

Mr. Walker

There will be a period of consultation when I shall consider further representations. But our election manifesto committed us to a two-tier system of local government.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

In his inquiry, will my right hon. Friend look into the system of rating as a means of raising revenue for local government expenditure, since many of us believe that the rating system has come almost to the end of its useful life as a means of raising revenue for local government expenditure and that other methods must be devised?

Mr. Walker

Consideration is being given to the financing of local government, and a Green Paper on local government financing will be published.

Mr. Marks

When there appears to be general agreement on a suitable type of local government for a local area, as in South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire, will the Secretary of State introduce legislation to reorganise local government in that area, as the previous Conservative Government did for London?

Mr. Walker

From correspondence which I have had from Cheshire, I was not aware that there was agreement in North-East Cheshire. It is, however, important to undertake the whole of local government reform at one time because of the uncertainties that otherwise would be created.

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