HL Deb 16 July 1984 vol 454 cc1176-7

2.52 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they will be able to announce the permitted levels of local authority spending for the next financial year.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, my right honourable friend hopes to make an announcement later this month.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, in view of the fact that it must have a bearing on next year's financial agreements, could the noble Minister tell us what really happened in the settlement between the Government and the Liverpool City Council? Did the Government suffer a humiliating defeat, as printed in Militant Tendency's newspaper, or was an accommodation reached under agreed criteria? If the settlement was reached on the latter basis, would the same criteria be afforded to the local authorities in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield in order to avoid any confrontation in the future?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am glad to say that Liverpool was treated no differently from any other authority in England. They received no special concessions. They received nothing on rate support grant, nor on targets, nor penalties, nor disregard, nor HIP allocations. They have gained nothing which they could not have gained in the normal course of discussions with my department about their programme. Liverpool have cut their proposed expenditure from £261 million to £223 million. Their claim that there has been a massive concession is frankly a smokescreen to cover their humiliating climbdown and the total failure of their attempts to confront the Government.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, before the Minister finally sits down, may I press him and ask him whether he is aware that in the press over the weekend there have been two projections? One is that there will be a moratorium on local government spending for the next financial year. Secondly, in the Sunday Times yesterday it was predicted that the rate support grant will be cut to 49 per cent. from, I think, 52 per cent. this year. If this policy is pursued and either of those figures is used as a criterion, is that not a recipe for future confrontation?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I can make no observations at all on the likely rate support grant settlement. As to the point about a moratorium, I certainly cannot comment on that, either, but I hope, as does the noble Lord, that that will not come about.

Lord Evans of Claughton

My Lords, will the noble Minister not agree with the comment in The Times today from the former leader of the Liverpool City Council, Trevor Jones, that much of the so-called victory that the Labour-controlled council has had is thanks to the considerable reserves of over £20 million built up by the Liberal administration in the previous year?

Lord Bellvvin

My Lords, had there been a "victory", I would have been interested to know the reason for it. I can certainly say that, far from being a victory, it was indeed exactly what I said; namely, a humiliating climbdown by those concerned.

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