HC Deb 12 November 1984 vol 67 cc403-4
10. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what consultations he has had with local authorities concerning the decision to end the use of the transport supplementary grant for revenue purposes.

Mr. Ridley

On 6 July the Department wrote to the GLC and the associations representing the English local authorities setting out the proposals. I met representatives of the associations on 30 July to discuss the proposals. The proposals were also discussed at meetings on 20 and 26 July. A meeting in September of the grants working group, under the auspices of the Consultative Council for Local Government Finance, considered exemplifications of the RSG block grant consequences of the proposed changes.

Mr. Bidwell

Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand that any substantial reduction in grant assistance for local authorities will inevitably lead to higher bus fares or a reduction in services? Is he not aware that the public will not stand for that and that they will see through the Government's inept transport policy?

Mr. Ridley

Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that, overall, that which is not paid through capital only transport supplementary grant will be paid through block grant? The decision is purely one of the mechanics of paying the money, not one of the total.

Mr. Fry

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of those in transport circles welcome his decision? Will he answer one question arising from the abolition of the metropolitan county councils? How will he ensure that successor district councils in south Yorkshire do not follow the current profligate policies of the county council in transport matters?

Mr. Ridley

South Yorkshire will have a joint board to handle transport matters, which will be subject to some form of control on the rate precepts that it may charge. That will provide a satisfactory answer to the important question asked by my hon. Friend.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Since the central funding for London bus and Underground services has fallen by 37 per cent., how can the Secretary of State seriously think that local authorities can use the money that will be made available in view of the other, quite unwarranted, attacks being made upon them by the Secretary of State for the Environment through the rate support grant?

Mr. Ridley

I do not quite understand how the hon. Lady reached that figure, which I do not accept. Large economies are available in the operation of public transport simply through achieving more efficiency. That is necessary if we are to make the cost of public transport support in some parts of the country that which the ratepayers can afford to pay.

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