§ Mr. Spearing
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to adjust levels of grant to local government to cover the loss of grants for water services; if he will consider making grants direct to regional water authorities; and what estimate he has made of the substantial effect on water service charges foreshadowed in the report of his departmental committee.
§ Mr. Graham Page
In the course of the debates on the Water Bill I said that it was not intended to make grants of a general nature to the new water authorities. I also gave an assurance that the Government, in taking decisions about the appropriate level of Exchequer assistance to local government after reorganisation, would take full account of the fact that ratepayers in the future would be paying directly for some water services that are at present paid for by local government from rates or from rate support grant. I am at the moment considering how this might best be done and am having discussions with the local authority associations on the future distribution of rate support grant.
The effect on water service charges, referred to by the Steering Group on Water Authority Economic and Financial Objectives in its first report, will vary from one area to another. These effects cannot be seen until 1974–75 charges have been fixed by water authorities on the basis of information supplied by existing authorities, not all of which has yet been received.