HC Deb 01 February 1989 vol 146 cc292-3
13. Mr. Ingrain

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how he arrived at the safety-netting levels applicable to individual authorities in the revenue support grant settlement for 1989–90.

Mr. Rifkind

The Government decided to end the excessive grant entitlements of high-spending authorities. Rather than eliminate them immediately, they decided, as with many other reforms, to phase the changes, and that will be achieved over a three to five-year period. The arrangements for 1989–90 were arrived at having regard to the effect of these grant changes on community charge payers. Details of the calculations are explained in the report on the Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1988, copies of which have been placed in the Library.

Mr. Ingram

Does the Secretary of State accept that the arrangements have worked harshly against East Kilbride district council? They have taken it from the third-lowest rated council to the highest poll-taxed council in Scotland. Will the Secretary of State assure us that the revenue support grant settlement will be reviewed in the light of the outturn on poll tax yields, rate products and other relevant factors?

Mr. Rifkind

I shall consider all relevant factors. The hon. Gentleman is correct; the district council did not benefit from the changes. However, East Kilbride taxpayers did. The combined effect on the regional and district councils has given East Kilbride taxpayers a net benefit of £6 per adult.

Mr. Doran

Apart from the efforts of the Secretary of State to reduce the income of local authorities, all Scottish hon. Members will be aware of the principled stand taken by Councillor Roy Munn of Grampian regional council to reduce the income of his own authority. What the House may be less aware of is that last year, in Grampian regional council there were 28 warrant sales, which were authorised by the finance convenor. Twenty-two of those were domestic warrant sales. We know that the finance convenor at that time was Roy Munn, the very same individual involved in the principled stand. Is such a principled stand by the Scottish National party one of which the Government approve?

Mr. Rifkind

We are all familiar with nationalist rhetoric and nationalist actions having nothing in common.

Mr. Redwood

When considering the overall revenue support grant for local authorities, did my right hon. and learned Friend take into account that it is one of the benefits of the Union to Scotland? Is it for that reason that some Opposition parties are not joining the SNP and are walking out of the constitutional convention?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is right to point to the substantial level of support that Scottish community charge payers receive from revenue support grant. Wales has a higher level of revenue support grant and England has a lower level.

Mr. Steel

Each elected local authority in Scotland, of whatever political persuasion, considers that its expenditure needs are higher than the Secretary of State considers and, therefore, has produced a higher poll tax than he forecast. How long does the Secretary of State intend to maintain the fiction that they are all wrong and he is right?

Mr. Rifkind

I should be more inclined to accept what the right hon. Gentleman said if his own regional council in the Borders had not received a revenue support grant of 13–5 per cent. To use that as a basis for increasing expenditure in the way that it has done shows a strong commitment to high spending and, perhaps, insufficient consideration for the interests of community charge payers.