§ 11.12 a.m.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have considered the first report on a study by Coopers and Lybrand Associates Limited on the financial implications of the abolition of the six metropolitan county councils.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)
Yes, my Lords. We have studied this report in detail. As my right honourable friend observed when it was published, it confirms our assessment that the volume of metropolitan county council's current expenditure has grown very much faster than that of other English local authorities.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, will the noble Lord agree that Coopers and Lybrand are respected management consultants, well experienced in local government matters, who have been used by various Government Departments, including the Department of the Environment? The noble Lord has seen the first report, but has he also seen the final report which was issued last Wednesday and which gave the financial implications? Is not the conclusion of both reports not what the Minister has just said, but that the facts in the White Paper are misleading and that, far from there being any savings, there could he additional costs? Does not this make it absolutley essential that the Government should do what they have not yet done—that is issue their own justification for their claims, so that we can set that against the Coopers and Lybrand Report?
§ Lord Bellwin
My Lords, there is nothing in either report that makes the White Paper statements misleading. The fact is that both the reports, including the second one to which the noble Lord refers, prove what the Government have said all along, that no detailed analysis can be carried out at this stage because, as they themselves say, they do not know what decisions the boroughs and districts which will take over the services will make as to how they will deal with the services. The Government remain absolutely confident that the removal of a whole tier of local government will give rise to savings.