HC Deb 26 April 1955 vol 540 cc43-4W
33. Mr. Robert Jenkins

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether, in order to facilitate agreement between local authorities for the absorption into neighbouring towns of excess population from overcrowded cities, he will specify what financial assistance they may expect from Government funds.

Mr. Sandys:

In order to help relieve congestion in large overcrowded cities, the Town Development Act, 1952, provides assistance for the expansion of smaller towns in the surrounding counties. Provided that the places chosen are suitable and that the scale and pace of the expansion are moderate, both exporting and receiving authorities should benefit. Nevertheless, it seems that, largely owing to uncertainty about their respective liabilities, the local authorities concerned are finding it difficult to agree upon the necessary financial arrangements between one another.

I have, therefore, been considering what the Government can do to clarify the position. In any scheme of town expansion, one of the main iterns of expenditure is the extension of the water and sewerage systems; and we have always been prepared to make grants towards these costs. It has been our practice to vary the rate of grant according to the circumstances in each area. However, in order to eliminate this element of uncertainty, I have now decided, in agreement with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that henceforth these grants shall be made at the uniform rate of 50 per cent. for all schemes approved under the Act.

In negotiations between exporting and receiving authorities, difficulty has also been experienced over the apportionment between them of the liability for the payment of the statutory rate contribution to the housing subsidy; and it has been suggested that the Government should help them to resolve this problem. Since the new houses will be allocated to persons on the exporting authority's housing list, it seems fair that that authority should meet this expenditure during an initial period. On the other hand, it would not be reasonable to expect it to go on carrying this financial burden indefinitely.

In my opinion, the exporting authority should normally be prepared to accept responsibility for paying to the receiving authority the statutory rate contribution for 10 years, or such longer period as may be agreed between them. But at the end of that period its financial liability should cease altogether. By that time it is to be hoped that the increased rateable value resulting from the expansion will enable the receiving authority to meet the rate contribution on the new houses, without too much difficulty. However, in cases where the Government are satisfied that this would place an unduly heavy burden upon the local rates, they will provide an Exchequer grant to meet the whole or part of the rate contribution for such further period, beyond the first 10 years, as they may consider appropriate.

I hope that the announcement of these decisions will help to clarify the financial liabilities of exporting and receiving authorities, and will now make the way clear for them to conclude between one another fair and workable agreements.

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