HC Deb 04 July 1985 vol 82 cc201-2W
Mr. Watson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when the 1985–86 rate support grant supplementary report will be published.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I have laid this report before the House today, together with the "Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report (No. 3) 1982–83".

The 1985–86 report demonstrates the consequences for ratepayers in those areas where local authorities have exceeded their spending targets.

Authorities were informed last December of their spending targets and of the grant holdback if they exceeded these targets. Despite this notice, a minority of authorities have chosen to overspend. They forgo £550 million of central Government grant as a result. Information about authorities spending plans for 1985–86 indicates they will over-run by £278 million the guidance I issued last December. £550 million is only 6.5 per cent. of the total of block grant of nearly £8,500 million, but for the ratepayers in the high spending areas the consequences of their authorities' decisions are severe.

Despite the overspending by a minority of authorities, it is good that the excess this year is markedly less than in 1984–85. This is a tribute to the success of the Rates Act. The Act has curbed the extravagance of the most profligate local authorities which in the past have been able to rifle the pockets of their ratepayers ruthlessly and with impunity. As we promised, the Government have come to these ratepayers' rescue.

The 1985–86 report also implements three established disregards, excluding from the calculation of grant holdback certain expenditure under the urban programme, on civil defence, and on schemes jointly financed with health authorities.

The report also announces that a new disregard has been agreed for 1985–86, for expenditure incurred by a local authority in contributing to any appeal to help victims or their dependents following a disaster leading to loss of life. This will be implemented in a subsequent supplementary report when sufficient information of authorities' spending under this head is available. The Government announced this disregard on 17 May in response to requests from local authorities following the Bradford fire disaster.

Three local authorities have so far failed to provide any information about their planned expenditure for 1985–86. I have therefore made estimates for Liverpool city council, Leicester City council and the London borough of Camden on the basis of the best information available to me. I shall reconsider these estimates when I have better information about these authorities' planned expenditure in 1985–86 and, if appropriate, make a further supplementary report for 1985–86.

I intend that the 1982–83 third supplementary report should "close the books" in the light of audited outturn expenditure information for all local authorities in 1982–83. There is no change to the total of grant and holdback for 1982–83, but there are small changes within the total for all authorities.