§ 8. Mr. Nicholas Edwards
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the impact of the rate support grant on Welsh local authorities.
§ 9. Mr. D. E. Thomas
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the level of rate support grant which will be made to each county in Wales for the year 1977–78.
§ Mr. John Morris
In common with local authorities generally, the percentage of expenditure of Welsh local authorities met by RSG will be lower next year. The impact on the ratepayer will depend on decisions taken by individual authorities, but generally speaking the average impact on the Welsh domestic ratepayer should be less in cash terms than in England. The share of the needs element of RSG to Welsh authorities as a whole next year will not change significantly and the differential in the domestic element in favour of Wales is to be retained. Information which will enable a provisional assessment of the amount of RSG needs element to be made is being sent to authorities today.
§ Mr. Edwards
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman basing that statement largely on domestic support continuing at the same rate? Is it not a fact that the burden falling on local authorities from reduced Government grants will in every Welsh county be above the national average of 15 per cent., that for four Welsh counties it is likely to be over 20 per cent., and that for the unfortunate citizens of Dyfed the burden is forecast at 24 per cent.? Why is it that once again Wales seems to be doing so badly?
§ Mr. Morris
Wales is not doing badly. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to study this matter. It is a tough settlement. The average rate bill in England will increase by about £15 and in Wales by about £11. The absolute increases in rate bills are likely to be smaller than average in Wales. Our 10 share of the needs element remains roughly the same. The differential in our favour in respect of the domestic element is unchanged. No one can seriously say that this element discriminates against the Welsh ratepayer.
§ Mr. Thomas
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman calculate the likely reduction in the levels of social and educational services offered by Welsh counties as a result of the RSG settlement? How many day centre places for the mentally ill will be lost, how many nursery places will be lost, how many road improvements will not be undertaken and how many jobs in local authorities in Wales will be lost as a result of the settlement?
§ Mr. Morris
I am the first to concede that this is a tough settlement. However, it is for the local authorities to decide a number of these issues for themselves. The hon. Gentleman should know that the total amount of Government support in his own county of Gwynedd—that is the total amount of all Government grants —is running at 76 per cent. That is an indication of the support that his area is receiving. I repeat that the totality of the needs element for the whole of Wales will be about the same as it was this year.
§ Sir A. Meyer
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that through the coming months many of us will be receiving furious letters from our constituents about rate increases? Is he further aware that many of us, even on the Opposition Benches, would be prepared to defend the Government's decision to reduce the rate support grant if only the Government would come clean and be frank and honest? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman continues to make the sort of reply that he has just made, the task of those who have to try to explain the facts of life to constituents will be rendered quite impossible.
§ Mr. Morris
I always listen carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has to say, and I trust that he will do me the same courtesy and read what I have just said about the totality of the assistance, the overall position in Wales, and the domestic element. I think that the hon. Gentleman used the word "honest". I hope that he is not suggesting in any way 11 that I have given a wrong impression. When he reads what I have said, I am sure that he will come to the conclusion that I have not given an unreasonable answer but have put the position fairly and squarely as I see it.
§ Mr. Wigley
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many councils are now waiting with concern for the transport supplementary grant figures? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us some assurance that the figure for Wales will be at least as high as last year and adjusted for inflation —namely, at least £25 million with at least £3 million for the county of Gwynedd?
§ Mr. Morris
My recollection and understanding is that Wales has done rather well in the TSG. I hope to announce the figures in the early part of next week.