HC Deb 10 November 1980 vol 992 cc7-9
5. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the number of jobs that have been lost in local government in Wales over the past 12 months because of the reduction in expenditure by local authorities as a result of Government pressure; and what estimate he has of the number of jobs which will be lost over the next 12 months arising from these policies.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The most recent information refers to the period June 1979 to June 1980, when the total number of local authority employees in Wales, including part-timers, fell by 3,043. Further manpower reductions will take place over the next 12 months, as local authorities reduce their expenditure to conform with the Government's guidelines, but this cannot be estimated, since the amount depends on the decisions individual authorities take to secure the necessary expenditure savings.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Secretary of State accept that the cuts that the Government are now pressing on local authorities are having devastating effects? Is he aware that my own county council, Gwynedd, in facing the possibility of £ 4 million cuts, must contemplate the closure of Coleg Pencraig at Llangefni and of three old people's homes, the emasculation of the home help service and the abolition of nursery education? Is that the sum total of Government policy?

Mr. Edwards

I note that in the period to which I have referred local authority manpower fell by only 2.5 per cent., while we have reduced manpower in the Welsh Office by 6.4 per cent. I believe that there is plenty of scope for further reductions in manpower rather than the cuts in services that the hon. Gentleman described. He would do well to press on his local authorities the importance of cutting their manpower rather than cutting services.

Mr. Delwyn Williams

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in cutting public service manpower he will in proportion be supplementing an increase in employment in the private sector, because to increase employment in the public sector one must borrow more money, which the private sector now desperately needs? Is it not better to have a small increase in unemployment in the public sector, in order to increase employment in the private sector?

Mr. Edwards

We cannot have services unless we create the wealth with which to pay them. The burden of public expenditure is discouraging private sector production. That is why local authorities have to play their part in reducing spending and manpower.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Secretary of State realise that, despite his wishful thinking, when the jobs go the services that they provide—for the elderly, the young, the disabled and the needy—will be either massively reduced or disappear altogether? We are told that further cuts are being demanded by the Treasury. Has the right hon. Gentleman taken a leaf out of the book of the Secretary of State for Defence, since Welsh unemployment now stands at 129,000, and had the courage to tell the Prime Minister that enough is enough, or is he happy to keep his own job even if it means putting the jobs of everyone else in Wales at risk?

Mr. Edwards

The right hon. Gentleman must be one of the few people alive who does not believe that there is room for economies in local government manpower. I believe that local government has a duty to improve the productive wealth of the country and to examine and reduce its manpower level before it reduces services.