HC Deb 04 July 1979 vol 969 cc1365-6
14. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland by how much the Fife regional council will require to reduce its expenditure programme in the current financial year to meet the Government's requirements.

Mr. Younger

It is for Fife regional council, like other local authorities, to decide how to respond to my request to all local authorities in Scotland to reduce their planned current expenditure at least to the level consistent with the rate support grant settlement for 1979 –80.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the Minister aware that this represents a vicious attack on the living standards of the people of Fife, whatever measures the Fife region is compelled to take as a result of his measures? Bearing in mind that the Fife region already has the lowest rate level in Scotland, does he agree that the Fife ratepayer should not be faced with this reduction? Will the Minister say how Fife's present standards of service in education, youth employment and roads may be maintained in view of the parsimonious attitude of the Government towards local authorities in Fife?

Mr. Younger

There is no doubt that the changes will result in difficulties for local authorities in their spending next year. However, the matter should be kept in perspective. They will still have more to spend after our rate support grant increase has been made than they would have had under the previous Government's rate support grant order. We have reduced the size of the increase that would have occurred. We must all cut back because the previous Government, of which the hon. Gentleman was a supporter, left the Exchequer so empty that there is no money with which to keep these services going.

Mr. Henderson

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the previous Labour Administration were prejudiced against rural areas in rate support grant terms? For a Labour-controlled authority, Fife regional council has been careful of public money. Will he please discuss with the Fife regional council urgent action to deal with the long-put-off problem of maintaining the unadopted roads?

Mr. Younger

It is my duty, and that of my officials, to do all we can to assist local authorities and their officials to make these reductions in the best possible way in the circumstances. It means great difficulties in the maintenance of many services. That is the result of there not being enough money with which to carry on as happened in the past five years.