HC Deb 15 December 1980 vol 996 cc13-4
12. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will give an assurance that the rate support grant distribution formula in Wales for 1981–82 will give adequate weighting to the additional cost of maintaining services in rural areas, particularly those with very sparse population.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I shall be announcing the Welsh rate support grant settlement to the Welsh Consultative Council on Local Government Finance tomorrow, and it would not be appropriate for me to announce details in advance of that meeting.

I shall also be making a statement in the House on both the rate support grant and housing finance tomorrow.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Secretary of State aware that over the past four years the county of Gwynedd has lost £4 million in the needs element of the rate support grant, the biggest proportionate loss of any county in Wales? That has squeezed very hard the level of services in Gwynedd and has forced the county to cut out any waste that could be cut out. Will the right hon. Gentleman bear that in mind in the rate support grant to be announced tomorrow and give an assurance that there will not be a squeeze that leads to even further reductions in services or an unacceptable increase in the rate level?

Mr. Edwards

What I can assure the hon. Gentleman is that the grant-related expenditure assessments have been made in full consultation with the Welsh Counties Committee and the Council for the Principality, and all these factors have been taken into account.

Mr. Best

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Gwynedd certain staff savings have been made, which are to be welcomed, and the position is now such that old people's homes may well have to be closed? Will he pay particular attention to the problems of rural areas in North-West Wales and make sure that such closures can be averted if possible?

Mr. Edwards

I am making a statement on these matters tomorrow, and I cannot anticipate what I shall say then.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the prophecy made by the financial adviser to the Welsh Counties Committee that, on the basis of the figures for the rate support grant determination that were widely forecast in the press this weekend, the domestic rate in Wales will rise by 30 per cent. and the non-domestic rate will rise by 22 per cent.? As the rate support grant position is so important to those of us in Wales, shall we have an opportunity to question the right hon. Gentleman in the House before the recess?

Mr. Edwards

The right hon. Gentleman has apparently not been listening. I have just said that I shall make a statement in the House tomorrow, so he will have the opportunity to ask questions. Forecasts of rates are worthless, because the rates will depend entirely on the individual decisions of local authorities.