Rate Support Grant

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th December 1974.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Jones Mr Arthur Jones , Daventry 12:00 am, 12th December 1974

I do nut want to go back to March this year. That would not help, either. I much prefer to address myself to the orders that are before the House. I hope that I shall carry the hon. Gentleman with me in some of my comments.

The financial crisis that faces local authorities is by no means relieved by the proposals before us. There is a tremendously high rate of inflation, and I was disappointed that the Secretary of State was not prepared to commit himself, albeit not specifically, but still in much more definite general terms, on what the rate of inflation is expected to be next year. Most of us have in mind a figure in the region of 30 per cent. That will present local government with a wide variety of problems.

Although the ratepayer will be helped significantly, he is given by the Secretary of State and those who speak for the Government a dose of soothing syrup in the reference to an average increase in rates of 25 per cent. We have heard from many who speak for their own constituencies that increases of 50 per cent. or more are expected. I noted with interest the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) who spoke for the London boroughs as a whole and suggested an expected increase in the region of 50 per cent. We have not heard of any local authorities which are expecting a balancing decrease in rates. How it is expected that the increase will be only 25 per cent. calls for some elaboration. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Wales will be able to help us.