HC Deb 06 July 1983 vol 45 cc265-7
4. Mr. Ward

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the average rate increases in 1983–84 for each class of authority.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. William Waldegrave)

With permission, I will arrange for the figures to be circulated in the Official Report.

Mr. Ward

I thank my hon. Friend for that somewhat short reply. I trust that when he publishes the figures they will prove conclusively the need to get rid of the metropolitan authorities so that we can reduce the rates charged by local authorities.

Mr. Waldegrave

There are nine categories of authority in the answer, and the House usually is not happy when long lists are read out.

My hon. Friend is right. The average rate increase of the metropolitan counties is well above that for the country as a whole. My hon. Friend will find various other factors that will interest him. Analysis will show that if one has the misfortune to be in a Labour county one is likely to have an above average rate: if one has the misfortune to be in a Labour district one is likely to have an above average rate; and if one has the misfortune to be in both one will pay well above the average rate.

Mr. Skinner

Does the Minister accept that one reason for the increase in rates, apart from the reduction in rate support grant, is the fact that back in the early 1970s a Tory Government promised to get rid of rates altogether and then decided to reorganise local government, which cost a fortune? Does he further accept that before the general election they promised to introduce a poll tax and to get rid of rates once again? They have promised to reorganise local government, and that will cost a fortune. Can we really believe anything the Tories say?

Mr. Waldegrave

The figures that we have published show that if the 18 top rating authorities in the country had rated on target there would be no average increase in rates in England.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Whey my hon. Friend is considering these figures, will he resist the temptation to prevent local authorities from increasing their rates—notwithstanding the fact that we want them to keep them down— because the electorate will see to that in the domestic area? Will he, however, put a cap on the increase that these councils can impose on business rates, because businesses have no vote?

Mr. Waldegrave

Any action that the Government take will bite against very few authorities. As I mentioned, 18 authorities — all Labour authorities — could have brought us right back to target. The great majority of authorities—up to 80 per cent. of them—both Labour and Conservative, are rating within 2 per cent. of target. Our proposals need frighten none of those responsible authorities.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister confirm that the share of local expenditure met by central funds is lower than it has been in living memory? Will he further confirm that there is growing suspicion about the inequitability of the distribution of central support and that it is strongly suspected in the metropolitan areas that southern areas and the shire counties have done extremely well? Does he agree that this suggests that, if the Government are really concerned with the whole of England and Wales, they should reconsider the matter carefully?

Mr. Waldegrave

My right hon. Friend is always willing to receive representations about the exact workings of the GRE formula, but the representatives of some of those southern authorities will not endorse what the hon. Gentleman says.

Following are the figures:

The average local rate or precept increases between 1982–83 and 1983–84 for each class of authority in England were
Per cent.
Shire counties 5.9
Shire districts 0.9
Metropolitan counties 7.4
Metropolitan districts 3.5
Inner London boroughs (including the City) 15.7
Outer London boroughs 6.4
GLC 14.7
ILEA 8.5
England (general rates) 6.4