HC Deb 07 February 1973 vol 850 cc451-3
29. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the numbers and proportion of ratepayers facing higher rates on 1st April as a direct result of revaluation of property.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to a similar Question from the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) on 23rd January 1973.—[Vol. 849, c. 95.]

Mr. Clark

I regret that the Minister will not give his estimate of the number of people involved, but will he take it that in my constituency—I have no reason to think that it is exceptional—in two districts where £60,000 in rate support grant will be lost, the rate will have to go up roughly 12p in the £ just as a result of revaluation? At this time of freeze, when wages are frozen, will he postpone the operation of the revaluation?

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman has taken part in debates on this matter, and he knows that the whole process of revaluation is fair as between one ratepayer and another. He has quite properly made the point on behalf of his own authority, but he will know that in the rate support grant settlement the Government have provided more assistance to local authorities than ever before, and have also provided greater help to the domestic ratepayer.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I am not sure that it is all that fair as between one ratepayer and another. Will my hon. Friend bear in mind—I have written to him about it—that in part of my constituency, in the Matlock area, for instance, the domestic ratepayer is liable to face a 20 per cent. increase because of the change of rate percentage under the new revaluation? Will he look into this matter again, which is causing grave concern to many people, including myself?

Mr. Griffiths

I am well aware of the views not only of my hon. Friend but of many hon. Members. If revaluation is postponed, as it was by the Labour Party for 10 years, when it takes place there will inveitably be changes which cause people to be concerned. I can only repeat that the Government have arranged to provide local authorities with much more support than ever before, and have increased the domestic element from 10p to 15p—a 50 per cent. increase.

Mr. Cant

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that there is a growing feeling of crisis in the treasuries of many of our cities and towns which is not relieved by his sending out a circular stating that rate increases will be monitored? What city treasurers need is not the monitoring of rate increases but substantial financial help, in view of the prospect that many rates will go up between 20 per cent. and 30 per cent., which is intolerable.

Mr. Griffiths

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have great respect in this matter, should take a less responsible view than that taken by the local authority associations, which have agreed with the Government that they will play their part in trying to make the counter-inflation strategy a success. I believe that the Government can reasonably look to local authorities to seek to contain expenditure which is not necessary in the circumstances.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the correspondence which has passed between the local authority associations and his Department is not known to the ordinary individual, and will he please take it from me that what is wanted is that the ordinary individual, who will be suddenly faced with a very real problem, should have clear in mind exactly what is being done, as well as the responsibility to which my hon. Friend rightly referred arising from the behaviour of the Opposition when in Government?

Mr. Griffiths

I agree that it is necessary for the public at large to understand what has been done and why revaluation has taken place. I can think of no one better equipped than my hon. Friend herself to make these matters known in her constituency.

Mr. Denis Howell

The Under-Secretary's answers today are both disappointing and irrelevant to the situation faced by a large number of authorities, particularly those in the major cities—a deputation from which is to see the Prime Minister this week—which face rises of 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. for domestic ratepayers because of the revaluation, without taking into account increases due to inflation or expansion. A short time ago, the Minister for Local Government and Development said that the Government would give some help to these authorities which, in the middle of a wage freeze, now face impossible demands upon their ratepayers. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm whether the Government will act to help these authorities which are worst hit as a result of revaluation?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

And the domestic ratepayer.

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman knows that during the discussions between the local authority associations and my Department the inflationary aspects were taken into account and were agreed by the local authorities to have been taken into account. So let us put that aside. The hon. Gentleman now asks that some undertaking be given that differential help might be afforded to some of the authorities which, as a result of the revaluation, find themselves in a difficult situation. I think that he must await the decisions of my right hon and learned Friend on this matter. The hon. Gentleman also referred to discussions which will be taking place between some of the large authorities and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is well aware of the problems and is considering them.

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