HC Deb 15 October 1991 vol 196 cc166-8 4.21 pm
Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to local government organisation in Scotland. My Bill would amend the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and so put right the injustice done to part of my constituency when that Act was passed.

The history is quite clear. In 1975 the communities of Cambuslang and Rutherglen, formerly governed by the district council of Lanark and the town council of the royal borough of Rutherglen, campaigned for a district council for Cambuslang and Rutherglen, but their campaign was unsuccessful. The communities were incorporated into the Glasgow district council area under measures implemented in 1975. It must be said that, 16 years later, the move is not regarded as a success in Cambuslang and Rutherglen.

The councils that administered the areas previously were quite successful. They reflected the interests of the community and were regarded highly by the people of the areas. Both communities feel that, since reorganisation, they have suffered a loss of identity. They now come under a much larger council than they were used to before. It may not be a very palatable fact, but it is clearly the case that the people in the areas are used to smaller, more responsive councils—councils that they feel they can influence on a daily basis without being lost in a giant bureaucracy.

We are asking for a district council because we believe that certain services are basic to people's daily lives. For instance, issues affecting housing repairs, and especially housing allocation, are of great importance locally. There are stable communities in the two areas, but when young people are of an age to get married and set up house, they are obliged to accept offers of housing all over the Glasgow district council area rather than within reach of their families as was previously the case.

This is probably the best time to make the point that the campaign and the Bill are not aimed at Glasgow district council. The Bill is not anti-Glasgow, and it is certainly not anti-Glasgow people. I wish to make that absolutely plain because I have the privilege and honour to represent the Glasgow people of Castlemilk, East and Toryglen, and they are the salt of the earth. The Bill is pro-Cambuslang and Rutherglen and, for the life of me, I do not see how anyone can interpret that, of necessity, as being anti-Glasgow.

I will willingly deal with the question of viability. I accept that, in the modern age, and to meet modern needs and demands, a council must be viable. It must also be able to provide the level of services that people are entitled to expect. It must be emphasised, however, that the size of the electorate of Cambuslang and Rutherglen is similar to, or larger than, that of many existing district councils within Strathclyde, including Clydebank, Clydesdale, Eastwood, Bearsden and Milngavie and Cumbernauld and Kilsyth. I am prepared to listen to debates about the principle of setting up a district council but I am not prepared to accept any criticism on the ground of viability. All the areas that I cited are doing reasonably successfully and there is no reason why the part of my constituency with which the Bill deals should not do likewise.

It is important to stress that we are talking about a district council. We make no attempt to claim that an area of our size, on its own, could run successfully regional council functions such as the police, fire, transport and strategic physical planning. We are after district council services.

A campaign for a local council has been set up over the past two months and 25,000 leaflets have been distributed. People have been on the main streets in the part of the constituency concerned. A series of public meetings have been held and so far the aggregate total of people attending those meetings is more than 2,500. In these days when we try to get people to attend public meetings, it is an outstanding success to achieve such attendances at meetings and it shows the level of support in the area for the campaign. We are also running a parliamentary petition and I expect more than 15,000 signatures to be gathered. I intend to present the petition to the House some time next month.

We also accept that there is a case for a city council or city authority as people on the periphery enter the city and avail themselves of the city's activities, namely, cultural activities. The rate support grant or amount. of Government support—no matter what it is called—is gathered from central taxation and income tax and VAT. It is wrong to say that people outwith cities do not contribute to the budget of city councils. As taxpayers, we all contribute and people in surrounding areas contribute to cities. It would be better if people who disagreed with that produced facts and figures instead of deriding the other point of view.

We believe that in our area a district council would be more accountable and responsive to people's needs. There would be better control for the public to ensure that the services delivered by the council were more efficient and cost effective. The communities of Cambuslang and Rutherglen have traditions which date back hundreds of years. They have a community spirit which councils and Governments are spending millions of pounds trying to create. We already have that community spirit.

I am not looking at those areas through rose-tinted glasses. Previous councils made mistakes, but on balance they did more good things than bad. I am prepared to argue that if we achieve a district council for Cambuslang and Rutherglen, it would make mistakes and do good things and bad things, but, most importantly, the communities in those two areas would readily identify on a community basis with a district council of Cambuslang and Rutherglen.

We are convinced that we can take the best of our traditions forward and build on them and ensure that we have a council that can deliver services effectively and, most importantly, one that is accountable to local people.

The purpose of the Bill is to create a 20th district council—a Cambuslang and Rutherglen district council —with Strathclyde regional council.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Thomas McAvoy, Mr. John McFall, Mr. Tom Clarke, Mr. George Robertson, Dr. Norman A. Godman, Mr. Jimmy Hood, Mr. William McKelvey, Mr. George Foulkes, Mr. Norman Hogg, Mr. Harry Ewing, Mrs. Irene Adams and Mr. Gordon McMaster.