Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that many local authorities feel that through their rate demands they have to take the blame for the Government's extreme policies? Will he undertake to get his Department to ensure that no local authority will have to incur any expenditure which has to fall upon ratepayers as a result of any of the provisions of the Community Land Bill?
We have debated the Community Land Bill many times and I have made it clear again and again that the ownership by local authorities of development land will turn out to be the best investment that local authorities could make.
Will the Secretary of State add to the reply given by the Under-Secretary to an earlier Question? May I invite him to say whether in the maintenance of local government services a considerable supplementary rate support grant will be required for 1975–76? Furthermore, what progress has been made with the local authority consultative council?
There will not be an additional rate support grant for 1975–76 other than the normal increase orders. On the question of the consultative council, I am meeting the local authority associations next Monday to discuss procedures, terms of reference and the rest. On the general point, whenever complaints come from Conservative Members I have to remind them that this year the central Government are paying 66½ per cent. of local government expenditure, a far higher figure than was ever paid by a Tory Government.
In view of the growing anger in Dorset, and no doubt elsewhere, at the level of rates, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an absolute guarantee that, whatever the effects of the Community Land Bill, he will not within the next year impose any burden on local authorities which is labour-intensive and rate-raising in quality?
I have already told the local authority associations—and we shall tell them again on Monday—that I am determined to get rid of a system which has existed under many past Governments and which has meant that on the one hand Ministers have called for the utmost economy in Government spending and yet on the other hand that they have issued circulars encouraging authorities to spend more money.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that soaring costs in local government are largely the responsibility of the central Government in their total failure to control public sector wages?
The soaring costs of local government are due basically to two things. They are due first to the continued growth in the demand—not from the Government but from the public—for better and better social services and secondly to the incredibly wasteful reorganisation imposed on them by the Conservative Government.