HC Deb 02 July 1980 vol 987 cc1522-3
19. Mr Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is planning to introduce legislation to limit the number of people employed by local authorities.

Mr. King

No, Sir.

Mr. Alton

Is the Minister aware that in many local authorities, where there are high unemployment rates anyway, local authorities are being faced with the cruel dilemma of having to decide whether to cut services or to sack employees? Does he not, therefore, think that it is the height of arrogance and a slap in the face to civic leaders from the city of Liverpool to turn down their recent request to meet the Secretary of State to discuss these difficulties?

Mr. King

I understand that my right hon. Friend has met the leader of the council of the city of Liverpool on a previous occasion. Obviously we are anxious, whenever it is reasonably possible, to meet leaders of principal local authorities. But in these difficult decisions, the Government have to face difficult expenditure priorities, as do local authorities.

Mr. Gummer

Is it not right that in order to meet the difficulties of the past five years, private enterprise has had to cut the number of people that it employs? Are not those employees extremely upset that local authorities, far from cutting their staff, seem to go on increasing their staff without any good reason being given to the electorate? Who pays?

Mr. King

One of the concerns of local authorities is the level of employment in their areas, yet many local authorities seem quite unaware of the serious impost that rate burdens place on industry. It is the largest single tax impost that falls on manufacturing industry. Undoubtedly in certain areas the level of rate increases has led to considerable unemployment among many industrial concerns.