HC Deb 05 March 1984 vol 55 cc596-7
13. Mr. Raffan

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what has been the increase in local government employment in Wales since September 1981; and what the cost of this increase represents in terms of rate poundage.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Between September 1981 and September 1983, the most recent date for which figures are available, local government manpower in Wales, in terms of full-time equivalents, rose by 763 or 0.6 per cent. However, between September 1982 and September 1983 there was an increase of 1,140 or 0.9 per cent. full-time equivalents. Had this increase not occurred, ratepayers would have saved up to £15 million, equivalent to 5½p in rate poundage terms.

Mr. Raffan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that extremely worrying upward trend in local government employment is costing jobs in manufacturing industry and that counties such as Clwyd are destroying wealth-producing jobs in the private sector by increasing their staff by 413 in the last quarter? Does he further agree that if those increases in local authority staff in Wales had not taken place, instead of rates increasing in the current financial year they could have fallen; and can he tell the House by how much?

Mr. Edwards

I agree with my hon. Friend about the damage that is being done. If Clwyd's manpower had not been increased by 1.5 per cent. between September 1982 and September 1983, which was well above the average, the county council's rate increase might well have been down to a record 5 or 6 per cent., or even lower, instead of the 9.5 per cent. that it now proposed.

Mr. Rogers

As the Secretary of State and his Ministers are projecting a fairy godfather image this afternoon, will he tell the House in what areas that increase in local government employment took place?

Mr. Edwards

They vary widely from local authority to local authority. One of the arguments put forward last year was that it arose from the increase in house improvement grants and that much of it came from the county councils.

Mr. Barry Jones

There are 25,000 people out of work in Clwyd. How many people are out of work in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

That does not arise from this question, but more people are out of work in Clwyd and in Wales because of the high rating decisions by local authorities.