HL Deb 19 December 1983 vol 446 cc578-9WA
Lord Northfield

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What restrictions they have imposed in Wales on local authority capital spending on industrial units for the remainder of the 1983–84 financial year; why it has been done without consultation; and what steps they have taken to ensure that the restrictions do not lead to an actual shortage of smaller industrial units in particular districts.

Baroness Young

The most recent analysis of Welsh local authorities' likely capital expenditure in the 1983–84 financial year shows the Government's cash limit could be exceeded by £50 million to £70 million. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales recognises that exceptional factors, notably the very substantial increase in the rate of spending on housing renovation grants, have contributed to the prospective overspend and he has therefore taken the exceptional step of providing an additional £50 million towards local authorities' capital spending in the current year.

In order to ensure that the revised 1983–84 capital cash limit is not exceeded, my right honourable friend could have used the powers available to him to withdraw and respecify the capital allocations of individual authorities. Instead, he preferred to rely on the voluntary co-operation of local authorities in meeting this objective and has therefore asked county and district councils in the Principality to limit their 1983–84 capital expenditure to a level consistent with legally binding commitments as at 2nd December. This request applies to all items of capital expenditure.

Although there is no legal requirement to consult the local authority associations on capital expenditure matters, the Joint Working Party on Local Authority Capital Expenditure, which includes representatives of both the Welsh Counties Committee and the Committee of Welsh District Councils, has been kept fully informed at its meetings of the prospective overspend and possible remedial measures. My right honourable friend's letter to local authorities seeking voluntary restraint reflected the views on certain technical issues of the local authority representatives on the joint working party.

The need to defer new commitments involving expenditure in the remaining four months of the current year is regrettable but necessary and should not pose insuperable difficulties for authorities. New commitments with expenditure implications for the financial year 1984–85 and future years are not affected.