HL Deb 23 June 1988 vol 498 cc1042-3WA
Lord Sandford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will now publish the Price Waterhouse Report on the Implementation and Collection of the Community Charge and if they will announce what further resources will be made available to local authorities in recognition of these costs.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

We have today placed copies of the Price Waterhouse Report in the Libraries of the Houses of Commons and Lords. The report is in two volumes. Volume 1 contains the consultant's forecasts of costs of setting up and collecting the community charge. Volume 2 consists of a summary of best practice which should help to reduce the cost of implementing the new arrangements. The consultants confirm the Government's estimate that the cost of collecting the community charge from each chargepayer would be very similar to the present average cost for collecting rates from each ratepayer.

Since there are twice as many chargepayers as ratepayers, this would produce collection costs in 1990 of between £ 379 million and £ 435 million, compared with the £ 200 million it now costs to collect rates each year. The report finds wide variations in the present productivity of different rating departments. The consultants believe that economies of up to 15 per cent. could be achieved if all authorities were to perform as well as the most efficient for each category of authority.

The consultants estimate that current expenditure on preparation in 1989–90 could be around £ 122 million but note that improved productivity could reduce this to £ 99 million, compared with the Government's initial estimate of £ 70 to £ 90 million. The report's estimate of the cost of administering community charge benefit and of operating the phasing in of the new arrangements in parts of inner London during 1990 to 1994 are in line with Government estimates. The report also confirms that little expenditure is likely to need to be incurred by authorities before April 1989.

Authorities have already been provided with sufficient resources to absorb the limited expenditure likely to be incurred in 1988–90 through the provision of current expenditure made in the RSG settlement for that year and the additional capital allocation of £ 25 million announced on 24th March 1988.

For 1989–90 we shall take account of the Price Waterhouse findings in our proposals for the RSG settlement. We will be making additional capital allocations when we have further considered the figures contained in the report. Final announcements on provision will follow the usual consultation with local authority associations on RSG and in the specification of capital allocations which will follow the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

In the meantime, we are arranging for a summary of these findings together with the whole of Volume 2 to be widely circulated to local authorities in order that they may consider the many opportunities now open to them for introducing the community charge as efficiently and economically as possible.