HC Deb 23 March 1983 vol 39 cc849-50
5. Mr. Sainsbury

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has as to the number of non-metropolitan district councils that are intending to raise a lower rate for 1983–84 than 1982–83.

Mr. King

On the information currently available about 80 non-metropolitan district councils are intending to raise a lower local rate in 1983–84 than in 1982–83.

Mr. Sainsbury

My right hon. Friend will be aware that that answer will be satisfactory to the ratepayers of those councils. Is he aware that amongst that number is the Conservative-controlled borough of Hove, which is proposing to levy a lower rate next year for the sixth time in eight years, which demonstrates its skill in carrying out its responsibilities? Does not the borough of Hove demonstrate that there are far too many Socialist-controlled local authorities which disregard their responsibility to deliver their services and utilise their assets as effectively as possible and therefore impose unreasonable and unnecessary burdens on industry and households?

Mr. King

I congratulate the borough of Hove and those other boroughs that have reduced their rates as we said would he possible. I hope that many of the boroughs that indulge more in propaganda and pay less real attention to value for money will change their priorities.

Mr. Ashton

How many of those low-rate councils have provided free bus passes and cheap television licences for pensioners, have not cut their services to the disabled and have not made their work forces redundant in the past two or three years to secure reduced rates? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not give a true comparison on those lines?

Mr. King

If the hon. Gentleman cares to study the matter objectively he will see that the truth is that some of those authorities with the highest rates often provide poor services as well.

Mr. William Hamilton

Name them.

Mr. King

The message that we have sought to deliver, and which I hope the hon. Gentleman will join in supporting, is that value for money is a concept that should be supported regardless of political party.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Can my right hon. Friend give any message to Lancaster city council, which is in a fortunate position similar to that of Hove, about its derelict land grant application, bearing in mind that it was told in February that some £2 million would be available if it was spent during the current financial year, which is clearly impossible? Is there any hope that such allocations can be carried forward into the next financial year?

Mr. King

My hon. Friend's question deals with capital expenditure, not rate levels. I admire his ingenuity in seeking to raise that question now, but the answer is no, Sir.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in congratulating the Labour-controlled council of Darlington, which has been able to cut 5p off its domestic rate because of the £640,000 profit made by its extremely efficient direct labour organisation?

Mr. King

I am delighted to welcome the conversion of the right hon. Gentleman to the cause of lower rates. He spends most of his time at the Dispatch Box claiming that higher rates do no damage to people or to industry.

Mr. James Lamond

Answer the question.

Mr. King

I certainly join in congratulating any authority that recognises the importance of rate levels, and I hope that the message of the Darlington reduction in rate levels is better understood by the GLC, ILEA and Islington.