HC Deb 04 June 1981 vol 5 cc1079-89
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement on current expenditure by local authorities in Scotland. I have today notified the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities of my proposals which I shall discuss with it at our next meeting on 15 June.

It is a matter of extreme concern to me that in their budgets for 1981–82 local authorities in Scotland plan to spend about £180 million more than allowed for in the 1980 rate support grant settlement, at November 1980 prices, or 8.8 per cent. more in volume terms. Authorities have also made provision for higher pay and price increases than allowed for in the cash limits and have thus budgeted for a cash excess of £235 million above the amount in the RSG settlement. This is a totally unacceptable response to the Government's request for lower public expenditure in the interests not only of the national economy but also of ratepayers.

I propose a twofold response. First, I am asking all local authorities to undertake an immediate review of their budgets in order to reduce their spending to levels consistent with the Government's expenditure plans. Authorities are being asked to report to me by the end of July.

Secondly, should the Local Governmnent (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill be enacted, I intend to take immediate action to reduce the rate support grant payable to certain local authorities which are planning to incur expenditure in 1981–82 which I am satisfied is excessive and unreasonable. The procedure, set out in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966, requires me to report to the House on the circumstances of each case and to obtain the approval of the House to such grant reductions, after giving the opportunity to the local authorities concerned to make representations. In order that the local authorities which may be affected initially may have the maximum opportunity to consider their responses and to examine the scope for reductions in planned spending, preliminary notice has today been given to them of the assessments upon which I have based my provisional conclusions. I shall, of course, be prepared to consider reducing the assessments in the light of any representations I receive. This preliminary advance notice is my response to requests for early notice of my intentions. It does not rule out the possibility of later action against other authorities.

The extent to which I reduce rate support grant will depend upon the results of the revised budgets. If present spending plans were to remain unchanged, I consider that it would be appropriate to withhold £100 million. It will be my objective to secure as much as possible of this reduction by selective means but, as I have already warned the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, it may also be necessary to reduce grant generally if present budgets are not substantially reduced. This would be achieved by reducing the amount of grant which might otherwise have been paid at increase order stage. I must therefore ask all authorities to review their budgets for further savings to keep any general abatement of grant to the minimum necessary. Such general abatement should be significantly lower than would otherwise have been necessary provided that the selective powers sought in the Bill are granted to me, since this would enable me to concentrate the necessary abatement upon those most responsible for the excess. This will be of benefit to the majority of local authorities in Scotland.

I now turn back to 1980–81. As hon. Members will recall, local authorities' original budgets for 1980–81 suggested a planned excess of £83 million, or 4.9 per cent. at November 1979 prices above the figure provided for in the 1979 rate support grant settlement. I called for revised budgets from all authorities and their response was that the outturn would be significantly less than the budgets. The provisional outturn figures for 1980–81 suggest that this did not happen and I have already expressed to the convention my deep concern about this situation. I shall consider further action when final figures are available in the autumn, but I am bound to make it clear now that it remains my intention to effect reductions in the rate support grant under my existing powers where I am satisfied that excessive and unreasonable expenditure has been incurred. If the final figures for outturn continue to disclose an unacceptable excess, I intend to effect grant reductions in the range of £40 million to £60 million. The higher figure will be appropriate if the excess of £83 million disclosed by the provisional returns is confirmed. I will give further consideration to the means of securing such a reduction and the possibility of part or all of it falling upon rate support grant for 1982–83.

In the more general context, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced on 2 June that the Government are considering further means to bring home to individual local authorities and their electorates the consequences of high-spending policies. I shall be considering with my colleagues the action, including legislation next Session, which may be required in Scotland. The Government must also consider the unfairness of the rating system. I shall undertake discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the consultation document, which, as my right hon. Friend said, we intend to issue in the autumn, which will deal with the alternatives to domestic rates.

Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)

This is a sorry day for Scottish local government. Is not the fundamental reason for the crisis in local authority finance the unrealistic expenditure figures set by the Government, the dishonest inflation figures written into the rate support grant settlement and the cuts in Government grant? The right hon. Gentleman set out on a collision course of bullying and intimidating local authorities in Scotland. That has poorer services and massive increases in rates, despite the right hon. Gentleman's hypocritical expression of concern for ratepayers in his statement. It has reduced relations between central Government and local government in Scotland to an all-time low and local democracy is threatened.

Are not the penalties set out in the statement proportionately much greater than those for England? For example, it will be £100 million in 1981–82 compared with only £450 million for England. Therefore, the penalty is proportionately much greater in Scotland despite all the right hon. Gentleman's propaganda about how generous and kindly he has been to Scottish local authorities compared with the actions of his colleagues south of the border.

How many jobs will be lost by these reductions in local authority expenditure? Why will the right hon. Gentleman not come clean and give us the details of the local authorities involved? Is it not a fact that he has given preliminary notice to seven local authorities and that that information has been available since the forenoon in Scotland? Presumably that information has also been available to the press. However, the right hon. Gentleman has not had the courtesy to give the details to the House.

Why is Lothian on the right hon. Gentleman's hit list, for example, when the excess of expenditure in the Western Isles and in Orkney and Shetland is considerably greater than in the Lothian region? Shetland's expenditure, for example, is no less than 72 per cent. above the guidelines. Why is a local authority such as Dumbarton on the list of authorities to be penalised when many other local authorities such as Banff and Buchan, Moray—

Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)


Mr. Millan

—Caithness and Lochaber have exceeded the Government's guidelines by more than 30 per cent.;—

Mr. McQuarrie


Mr. Millan

—including, for the benefit of the uninformed hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie), Banff and Buchan at 38.2 per cent? Why are they not on the Government's hit list? Even within the context of the policy that the right hon. Gentleman is following, the list of authorities that have been singled out for preliminary penalties owes far less to fairness than to political spite and the operation of a vendetta.

We shall oppose these reductions, which are another example of central Government trying to blame Scottish local authorities for the shortcomings of their own policy, which has produced an economic crisis and record unemployment in Scotland. Central Government have failed to control their expenditure as effectively as the Scottish local authorities have controlled theirs. We shall oppose these penalties all the way along the line.

Mr. Younger

The right hon. Gentleman, even by his own standards, is far off the beam. I shall try to answer as many of his questions as I can. I shall do so briefly. The authorities to which I sent letters yesterday to give them advance warning—I did so very much at the request of those concerned, who wished to know where they stood—

Mr. George Foulkes: (South Ayrshire)

So do we.

Mr. Younger

I wrote to Dumbarton, East Lothian, Renfrew, Stirling, Cumnock and Doon Valley and Dundee.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the possible loss of jobs. He might care to reflect on how many jobs have already been lost by the excessive burden that is being imposed upon businesses, especially smaller businesses, as a result of the rating policies of some of the authorities that he supports. If he does not know about that, he should go to the districts surrounding Edinburgh. He will discover that many representatives of the districts will be delighted to speak to him.

The right hon. Gentleman alleges that the penalties will be greater in Scotland than in England. It is uncharacteristic that the right hon. Gentleman has his arithmetic entirely wrong. The cash overspend in England is £1,250 million. That is the figure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment used on Tuesday. The abatement in England is £450 million. The cash overspend in Scotland is £235 million and the abatement is £100 million. There is a volume overspend of £180 million in Scotland compared with an abatement of £100 million. That seems to be in line with the overspend of £800 million in England and the £450 million abatement.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about a long-standing vendetta against local government and unrealistic figures. On every occasion that I have met local government representatives I have warned them in the most careful manner that the reduction would have to come and that the earlier they reduced their expenditure the easier it would be for them to do so. Many of them have done their best but some have deliberately not done so. They will have only themselves to blame if they now find it extremely difficult to achieve the Government's guidelines.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that the figures are unrealistic I wonder whether he is thinking about what he is saying. He might be interested to know that the Government's planned figure for 1981–82, which is what we are trying to get the local authorities to reduce their expenditure to, is higher than the actual expenditure that he approved in 1977–78 when he was the Secretary of State for Scotland. If he thought that local authority services were decimated then, I do not recall him saying so. In 1980–81 and 1981–82 local authorities' estimated spending will be higher than the spending in the right hon. Gentleman's period of office. It will be 2 per cent higher in the first of those years and 1 per cent. higher for the second. When the right hon. Gentleman says that the figures are unrealistic he is condemning as unrealistic the figures that applied during his period of office. That exposes the nonsense that he has been talking.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I am prepared to let questions continue on the statement until 25 minutes to 5 o'clock. That will provide a longer period for questions than I have allowed for questions following other rate support grant statements. If questions are brief, every questioner will be called. If they are not, it will not be possible to call all those who wish to question the Secretary of State.

Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many Scottish local authorities are having a severe struggle to maintain essential services? At least those authorities were elected to maintain such services? That makes this cut by a Conservative Government totally unacceptable in Scotland, where they have no mandate.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that local authorities must have some independence in deciding their priorities? If they do not, the system will be in danger of collapse.

Mr. Younger

Local authorities have the power to decide their priorities. That is what local authority independence is all about. However, the right hon. Gentleman must agree that any Government of any complexion must have a right to determine overall expenditure and economic policy. If they do not have that right, the principle of Government falls.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Edinburgh, South)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us who have had to live under the extravagence and profligacy of regional authorities such as Lothian will welcome his statement? That will go for the ratepayers of the region. Will he confirm that, under the legislation to which he refers, if the authorities behave responsibly his announcement should result in a considerable reduction in the regional rate in the current year?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. The hardship that many people in that part of Scotland face as a result of the rating policies being pursued has been brought forcibly to my attention. I confirm that the power that I seek—which I hope Parliament will shortly accept—will enable a local authority whose grant is removed to return the money to ratepayers in the form of a rate reduction.

Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)

Will the Secretary of State explain why Cumnock and Doon Valley is on his hit list when it is nowhere near the top of the list of local authorities that are above his guidelines and when it falls under average spending in Scotland by nearly £10 per head? On all the criteria, that authority should not be on his list. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is asking for a 20 per cent. cut in expenditure, which can be achieved only by substantial sackings in an area of high unemployment?

Mr. Younger

I am prepared to look carefully at any representations that that authority, or any other authority, may wish to put to me. It is not a question of looking purely at the guidelines to see whether they have been exceeded. Many other factors have to be taken into account. All the measures taken will have to be justified to the House. I shall seek to do that.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm what he said to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on 6 April—that not only the guidelines but also the track record and expenditure of local authorities since 1978 would be taken into account? Is it not true that traditionally prudent authorities may experience changes from year to year and that they should not be penalised for one year? Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that, if some local authorities greatly overspend, there will be less money for all local authorities and ratepayers will inevitably suffer?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is quite right. We take the widest possible spectrum of criteria into account when making a proposal to the House about any authority. He was also right to point out that each authority has an effect on other authorities if it overspends. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the measures that the Government wish to operate concentrate as much as possible on penalising overspenders and minimising the effect on those that are not the biggest overspenders.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

When the Secretary of State said that there might be a possible general reduction in grant, did he mean that authorities that fell within the guidelines might still suffer? The right hon. Gentleman mentioned much-needed rate reform. Will there be a separate consultative document for Scotland? If so, why? Will there be legislation before the next election?

Mr. Younger

No decision has been taken about the details of the consultative document. I shall discuss with my right hon. Friends the question whether there will be one document or separate documents. As regards the hon. Gentleman's first point, from time to time when Governments have abated local authority expenditure they have usually done so by a general abatement across the board, according to the formula. It has fallen unrealistically on some authorities, because the penalty exacted does not always fit the crime. It is not possible to recover all the money concerned selectively. However, the new scheme which the Government have introduced will be much fairer because a large proportion of the money—but not all of it—will be recovered selectively from the main offenders.

Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be welcomed by most responsible Scottish local authorities, particularly the local authorities of Grampian, Banff and Buchan and Gordon in my constituency? Despite the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), Banff and Buchan did not increase the rates this year. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, when the Labour Government instituted similar measures after the IMF had been brought in, they received the support of Conservative-controlled councils? Are not the Government entitled to expect the same support from Labour-controlled councils to safeguard the interests of ratepayers in Scotland?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend. Ratepayers in Scotland, particularly those in high-spending authorities, will be extremely relieved to hear the statement and the action that is being taken. I note with approval my hon. Friend's remarks about Banff and Buchan and other authorities in his area. As I have reminded the right hon. Member for Craigton before, he was lucky that Conservative-controlled local authorities were thoroughly prepared to help him in his task of reducing expenditure. The proof of that came in my first meeting with Lothian regional councillors, who were at pains to stress that their objection was not political and that they had had the same trouble with the right hon. Gentleman as they were having with me.

Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no one in Ayrshire will be taken in by his proposal and that of the Secretary of State for the Environment that we should have another consultative document on the reform of the rating system, particularly so soon after the report of the Layfield committee? Is it not time that we scrapped the rating system and introduced a system of 100 per cent. Government grant? Will not the Secretary of State guarantee that Scotland will give the lead and that he will introduce a Bill in the next Session to scrap the rating system?

Mr. Younger

I am not nearly as pessimistic as the hon. Gentleman about such matters. I do not wish to prejudice the contents of the consultative document, but a 100 per cent. grant from central Government to local government would effectively remove any democratic control. Therefore, it would be a somewhat dubious alternative.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Why does the Secretary of State refuse to accept that, generally, local government in Scotland has a far better record of controlling expenditure than the Government and that the crisis inflicted on local government in Scotland is due not to the irresponsible attitude of a few local authorities but to the Government's failure to meet their mistaken targets? Why is the right hon. Gentleman taking 2½ years to come forward even with a Green Paper on local government finance reform, when, before the last election, his party was committed to the abolition of rates?

Mr. Younger

I wish that Scottish local authorities had a better record than others of saving local government expenditure. However, a prospective overspend of £180 million does not strike me as a good record. It would put Scottish local authorities even above the planned expenditure levels that the right hon. Member for Craigton left behind, which everyone knows we cannot afford. As regards the Green Paper, it is extremely difficult to talk about replacement of the domestic rating system. At least the Government are committed to trying to do something about it. We shall produce a consultative document in the autumn.

Mr. Peter Fraser (South Angus)

As ratepayers in the city of Dundee have had to face rate increases of 150 per cent., may I assure my right hon. Friend that his statement will be warmly welcomed? Will he take time now to explain to those ratepayers that, coupled with the powers that he will have under the new Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, the proposed reduction in rate support grant—about £2.75 million—will mean that, if the local authority is responsible, they will enjoy a reduction of about 5p in the pound in their rates? As ratepayers are hard pressed, that will be welcome to them.

Mr. Younger

I agree that some hard-pressed ratepayers will be anxiously awaiting the councils' decisions. We have borne the ratepayers in mind in the powers that I am asking Parliament for. For the first time we are giving a council that loses grant the opportunity to return the money to its ratepayers. I should have thought that councils would be anxious to do that.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

How can the right hon. Gentleman talk about a reduction of democratic choice in local government if the rating system is abolished, when all his actions since taking office have had that effect? What further steps can he take to destroy local government initiative apart from those that he is now taking? Will he come clean, be honest and say that he wants to abolish local government entirely and to run it from New St Andrew's house?

Mr. Younger

That proposition would hold some water if it was new for a Government to try to reduce local government expenditure. The hon. Gentleman has a long enough memory to know that his right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton and his predecessor, Lord Ross, spent a great deal of time trying to do the same thing with local government. When the hon. Gentleman was at the Scottish Office, he probably took part in the exercise as well. When local government goes against the trends of a Government's economic policy, any responsible Secretary of State will try to get local government expenditure to correspond to national economic priorities. There is no alternative.

Mr. Ian Lang (Galloway)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the steps he has announced, which will be warmly welcomed by many thousands of aggrieved ratepayers, have been made necessary only by the stunning insensivity of some local authorities? Will he confirm that he will not hesitate to intervene with those local authorities which seem to regard high rates as either some kind of virility symbol or as a political weapon against the Government?

Mr. Younger

It seems that some people in local government in Scotland think they can hit their ratepayers time and time again and have no consequences from it. It is my duty to try to do something to protect the ratepayers from this sort of attack.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Will the Secretary of State answer the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) about the number of jobs which may be lost as a result of the action he intends to take against local authorities? Will he also tell us what the cost will be to the Exchequer in terms of unemployment benefit and other social security payments as a result of the redundances which will occur because of his actions?

Mr. Younger

Everyone in local and central Government and, indeed, in private industry would much rather that they never had to put anyone out of work if they could avoid it. If only local authorities had started early enough they would have been able to make the necessary savings without any redundancies, as I have done in the Scottish Office, where we have reduced staff by over 600, without redundancies. If one starts early enough one can do this without redundancies. That is what I have been pressing local government to do for two years.

Mr. Allan Stewart (Renfrewshire, East)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, especially on behalf of those of my constituents who are unfortunate enough to be ratepayers suffering under the socialist yoke of the wild men of Renfrew. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the outrage in my constituency at the contrast between the 12½ per cent. rate increase in Eastwood and the 60 per cent. rate increase in Renfrew, with all that that means for jobs in an area of high unemployment?

Mr. Younger

I am conscious that a large number of local authorities in Scotland, including the one mentioned by my hon. Friend, have tried hard to do the difficult business of cutting their expenditure back in accordance with the priorities we have suggested. I pay tribute to those authorities. It is sad that they should, to some small degree at any rate, suffer for the sins of others which are deliberately doing the opposite and putting their ratepayers in danger as a result.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

Will the Secretary of State clarify his statement in relation to the proportion of penalties between England and Scotland? On a rough calculation the English penalty as a proportion of excess expenditure is 36 per cent. while the Scottish penalty on the same basis is 43 per cent. Will he come clean on these statistics? Will he also acknowledge that the tendency of his Government is to pollute the relationship between central Government and local government because his Government have used only one instrument of economic policy--namely, monetarism? They have failed completely to use all the other instruments of economic policy. In a recession, local authorities should be spending more—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."]—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not being fair to his colleagues.

Mr. Younger

On the first point there is no mystery about the figures. The planned volume overspend in Scotland is £180 million, which is considerably higher proportionally than the corresponding figure in England. The abatement of £100 million is absolutely in line with the relative figures in England, which are £800 million volume overspend and £400 million abatement. I challenge anyone to put that in any other way. On the hon. Gentleman's point about polluting the relationship between central Government and local government, there is nothing new in central Government trying to persuade local government to be economical. I could have avoided all this simply by allowing local government to go on spending with the sky as the limit while everyone else suffered difficulties of the economic recession. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is wise enough to know that that would be nonsense. Nobody could have expected me to do that, and I have not.

Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)

My constituents in the Dundee district will welcome the statement because of the effect it will have on their rates. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the actions of that authority have done little to bring jobs to that area? Does he also agree that the reactionary forces at work in some local authorities in Scotland are the same forces which are giving trouble to the Labour Party internally?

Mr. Younger

I note what my hon. Friend says about the conduct of Dundee district. I will be putting a case to the House in due course and I do not want to go further into its activities. What that authority and others should bear carefully in mind is that, when they overspend, it is not a question of producing figures that annoy the Secretary of State; it is a deliberate imposition on the ratepayers, many of whom are businesses employing people in the areas. There is no doubt in anyone's mind in some of these areas that the high rate increases are already destroying jobs. It is that which is a challenge to the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour Party because, if they do not watch it, they will be supporting the people who are destroying jobs in all those areas.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

It is clear that I shall be able to call the four hon. Members who have been getting up.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

When he says there are other considerations besides the specifically numerical, will the right hon. Gentleman agree that this may be an excuse for letting off Tory areas and clobbering Labour areas but makes no sense economically? For example, Renfrew, my district, is to have the highest cut of any district council—£3.8 million—at a time when it has two major problems which it has been dealing with. One is Linwood, with 40 per cent. unemployment. To bring about further economic inflation in an area with the highest unemployment of any urban community in Britain is an economic absurdity. That is allied to the kind of democratic nonsense to which the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's programme adds.

Mr. Younger

The whole question of how authorities are selected for penalties has to be done under statutes laid down by the House. Incidentally, the procedure was laid down by a Labour Government.[Interruption.] If I may beg the pardon of the Peter O'Sullivan of this House, who seems to make a continual commentary, the fact is that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) was a member of the Labour Government which introduced the measure and he had better live with it. On the other point made by the hon. Member, I appreciate that Renfrew district has problems, but so do many other parts of Scotland. I am glad to listen to representations from them, as I will do if an order is put down. They might like to reflect upon the fact that if they are trying to attract replacement industry for Linwood high rates are not likely to be a good way of doing so.

Mr. John Home Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)

Is the Secretary of State aware that his statement can only add to the difficulties which he has already created for the ratepayers of Lothian region through his cuts in rate support grant? Will he accept that the first casualty in Lothian region is likely to be £10 million of capital expenditure, which will be catastrophic for building contractors? Is he aware that this will lead directly to about 5,000 redundancies—an employment disaster comparable with that at Linwood? What mandate have the Government to implement these policies in Scotland?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman tries hard but I do not think many people in Lothian region will blame anyone but the regional council for the rates they have to pay. In regard to what he says about the first casualties, I have news for him. The first casualties have already happened. They are the people who found their rate increases this year intolerable and impossible to bear. That was the result of the Labour Party's excessive spending policies, which the hon. Gentleman supported.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

When the Minister is looking at Dundee district authority's rate levels and excessive regional expenditure, as he sees it, will he accept that his formula takes no account of the deliberately artificially held down rate levels which were a desperate election gimmick of a Tory local authority, which did not work and which did not reflect the services being provided by that authority? Will he accept that the rate levels now reflect the services required in that area? May I say that the threat that this poses to 500 jobs in Dundee will not be welcomed by those who will suffer if the axe falls on that authority?

Mr. Younger

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will be ready to listen to any representations which Dundee wishes to make to me on the subject if an order is put down. I promise that I will do that carefully. He has made the point himself and it is a simple one—Tory authorities try to reduce rates and Labour authorities try to put them up.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

Will the Secretary of State admit that his statement amounts to further Tory Government pressure for increased rents, increased rates and decreases in essential services such as housing, social work and education? Why is the Secretary of State so hell-bent on taking revenge against council house tenants and other ratepayers in the Stirling district who voted to return Labour councillors and who therefore have a better mandate to represent the interests of their people than has a discredited Tory Secretary of State who represents only a dwindling minority of the people of Scotland and is now behaving like a jack-booted commissar by kicking local democracy in the teeth?

Mr. Younger

I have a great advantage in this matter because I am one of the hon. Gentleman's constituents. I read his election address and that of the district council with great care, but nowhere did they state in advance to the electors that they proposed a 150 per cent. rate increase. If they had done, there might have been a very different result.