§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, under the Local Government Act, 1929, a block grant 734 system was instituted whereby a total sum is distributed annually among local authorities in aid of their expenditure on local government services. In part the grants are in lieu of revenues lost by local authorities as a result of the derating provisions of the Act and the discontinuance of certain public health and other grants as from April 1, 1930. The present fixed grant period—the third—expires on March 31, 1942, and in the ordinary way steps would now be taken to obtain the necessary returns of expenditure and make the necessary calculations to fix grants payable for the period of five years beginning on April 1, 1942. In present circumstances, however, this is quite impracticable, not so much because of the detailed work which it would throw on local authorities—although that would be large—and on the Department, but because a distribution based on the current population and "weighting" factors of each area would be clearly inequitable. The population of a town at the present moment can be no measure of the relative needs of that town during the years 1942–47. If we applied the statutory formula to present conditions we should, for example, give less to the East Coast towns—who ought to get more—and give more to reception areas, which have not been hit financially. Further, it is not a practical proposal to alter the formula to meet the temporary abnormalities of war-time.
The associations of local authorities and the London County Council are of course well aware of the position. They, on being consulted, have agreed that recalculation of the grants during war-time and based on war conditions is not to be contemplated and that the only course is to extend the present grant period until after the end of the war. The extension of the current grant period, in accordance with the proposals of the present Bill, means that the aggregate of the grants to be distributed to local authorities under the Local Government Acts, 1929 and 1937, and amounts of the grants to individual local authorities, will in each year of the extended period be the same as in the year 1941–42. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Croft.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.