HL Deb 24 February 1965 vol 263 cc815-7

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the increases in the county rates recently announced for Essex, Kent and Surrey can be attributed to the reorganisation of Greater London Government; and to what extent the new rates announced by various authorities in the Greater London Council's area show increases attributable to a similar cause.]


My Lords, the answer to both parts of the Question is that it is not possible to make any exact attribution. But under the London Government Act the Greater London Council is to pay transitional assistance next year to Essex, Kent and Surrey. If all factors are taken into account, the 5d. mentioned in Section 70 of the London Government Act, 1963, is an approximate indication of the increases in the county rates attributable to reorganisation. The cost to ratepayers in the Greater London Council area is just over a penny rate.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the severance has imposed an extra burden on the ratepayers of Essex of 1s. 3½ d. in the pound; that 5d. of this will be payable immediately this year, and that the sum will increase yearly for the next eight years until, in the eighth year, it reaches the full sum of 1s. 3½ d. in the pound? Is he further aware that the new Essex will have to pay for 59 per cent. of the services of the former Essex out of only 48 per cent. of the rateable value of the former county? In regard to those boroughs which have been annexed to London, is my noble friend aware that the rates at Chingford will go up by 3s. Id. in the pound; at Romford by 2s. 3d. in the pound; at Leyton by 1s. 11d. in the pound, and at Waltham-stow by 2s. in the pound, the bulk of the increase in each case being directly attributable to reorganisation? And will my noble friend bear in mind—



The short answer to that is that I am well aware of the general position, which indeed was foreseen in the section of the London Government Act to which I referred. But I am afraid that I do not carry in my head, though I am now aware of what my noble friend has told me, the detailed application to each district. I cannot add anything more precise; I do not think that it is possible to add anything more precise to what I have said already. But if I may say something further to my noble friend, the Government are well aware that the question of rating generally, and the distribution of the burden of paying for services partly local in character as between the Central Government and local authorities is a matter which the Government are reviewing at the moment. Your Lordships may have noticed indications in the Press and elsewhere that the review is actively proceeding. I appreciate the difficulties which this change may well have caused to local authorities. It is for this reason that that section was put in. But the whole matter needs, and will receive, full review.


My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for holding out this hope to harassed ratepayers? May I further ask him to bear in mind that, when one speaks of an increase of 3s. in the rates themselves on the new assessments, they are roughly three times as big on the old assessments? Therefore, a 3s. increase is a 9s. increase in the rates, and that is staggering.


May I add this? We hope to be able to help the harassed ratepayers, but we must have regard also to the harassed taxpayers.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether it was this Government or the preceding Government who were responsible for the introduction of this measure?


From the date of the Act, the previous Government.