Rate Rebates

Part of Order of the Day – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th January 1973.

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Photo of Mr Michael Cocks Mr Michael Cocks , Bristol South 12:00 am, 30th January 1973

We are grateful for this limited opportunity to discuss the rate situation since a great crisis faces our large cities in terms of the present rate burdens.

I wish the Minister could have explained in a little more detail the basis upon which the Government have arrived at these figures. He concedes that it would have been possible to increase them over and above these figures, but he said that it would have been indiscriminate aid. I regard the whole approach as indiscriminate, because the Minister said that 60p in the £ will be given to help to relieve the rate burden of local authorities. In the past few years Bristol has received only 43p in the £ to help alleviate its rate burden.

I concede the Minister's point that when we talk about rent rebates we talk about an existing system and that tonight we cannot restructure the whole of local government finance. In fact we look forward to receiving the Minister's proposals on that in due course. We have to deal with the existing situation. But on the right hon. Gentleman's own admission it is unsatisfactory and the rebate is the same for all who qualify.

The Minister has been trying as far as possible to deal with matters which are constants in this equation. But he has glossed over quickly and perhaps a little smoothly the fact that there is now a variable which has not been present in previous years. It is the question of revaluation. I think that we ought to consider the effect of it on rate rebate orders of this kind.

There is a very different impact on different people. It means that a system which operated evenly and fairly over the population as a whole in the past will now become discriminating in terms of the amount of relief which it gives to individuals.

Perhaps I might be allowed to quote some figures from my local authority. It is the one that I know best. What is more the Minister is familiar with Bristol. He has been referred to frequently as "the undertaker of Bristol" since he has reduced our once proud city to the status of a jazzed-up parish council.

The general effect of revaluation is to increase rateable values by a factor of 2·2. In Bristol the domestic factor will be increased by 2·5, in older estates by a factor of 2·6 and in some newer estates by a factor of 2·9. Within the Bristol ratepaying community as a whole differences are now appearing which were not there before we considered these latest orders. The rate increases which are envisaged in Bristol in order to maintain and improve existing services and to take account of inflation and the new responsibilities placed upon local authorities will fall more heavily on some people than on others. Therefore of those in receipt of rate rebate some will be discriminated against through the lack of sensitivity in this order.

I wish that there was more possibility for flexibility in orders of this kind. We tend to look upon the rating crisis in much too glib and easy a manner. We cannot allow the Minister's comments to pass unchallenged. We ought to put it on record that to deal with the problem arising from revaluation whereby some people who in the past have been receiving the same rebate as others will have to pay proportionately far more, there should be some effort to give them relief. If that is not possible through the order, it should be acknowledged that greater hardship will result.