HC Deb 18 April 1973 vol 855 cc465-7
2. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement about Government aid to ease the special financial problems of the great cities.

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend to a similar question from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) on 6th March.—[Vol. 852. c. 94–6.]

Mr. Kaufman

Is the Minister aware of the anger felt by the people of Manchester at the Government's failure to make an adequate contribution towards paying for services provided by the city of Manchester to hundreds of thousands of people who do not live in the city but use those services and who do not contribute towards their cost? Is he further aware of the anger of the people of Manchester at having to pay an increased rate in order to cover the cost of Government legislation of which they disapprove, such as the Housing Finance Act? When will the Minister take some action to help us, instead of just waffling complacently?

Mr. Page

The hon. Gentleman appears not to appreciate the purpose of the rate support grant, which is a global figure arranged with the local authorities, in November or thereabouts each year for the following year, so that local authorities may have freedom to decide on what they spend their money and need not ask the taxpayer or ratepayer for more. It is reasonable for the Government to ask them to keep within that estimated expenditure.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, in any case, 60 per cent. of local government revenue comes from the central Exchequer, and that if there is any problem, it is surely a problem of the rating system itself, which is illogical, unfair and out of date?

Mr. Page

I would not go so far as that. The contribution from the taxpayer is substantial. It is, after all, worked out by agreement with the local authority associations.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the city of Manchester is in a rather special position? Has he observed that, as a result of the fall in population and the elimination of the rate resources element, it is estimated that Manchester has lost £1.9 million during the period 1972–73? Will he reconsider this problem and give some relief to the burdened ratepayers of the city?

Mr. Page

The problem of Manchester is not unique. We are taking account of the problems of the large cities in considering a new formula on which to distribute the rate support grant, which I hope will shortly be put before the House in new legislation.