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Local Government

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th April 1976.

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Photo of Mr Michael Shersby Mr Michael Shersby , Hillingdon Uxbridge 12:00 am, 28th April 1976

—and where people vote for the local vicar or local people who stand as independents and are genuinely independent, dealing with parish pump matters.

Whatever Labour Members may say from a sedentary position, the fact is that today there are still many parish councils that are, happily, elected on that basis.

All those who vote in the district council elections next week are indeed fortunate. They are certainly more fortunate than the electors of Greater London, in which my constituency is situated, who will have to wait for another two years before they can pronounce judgment on the record of the councils which were elected some two years ago. However, if the people of London have to wait, at least the example of what is going on in some of the Labour-controlled London boroughs can be a dreadful warning to others of what can happen if they do not elect men and women who will control public expenditure and respect the rights of individuals.

I was interested to hear the Prime Minister in his television broadcast on the night he was appointed say that he wanted the Labour Party to stand for individual freedom. I strongly agree with that. I hope that what he said will be felt right through the boroughs and will be remembered by councillors of all parties when they exert their powers in the new councils.

I want to take as my example the Labour-controlled council of the London Boroughs of Hillingdon in which my constituency is situated and which may have come to the attention of the Secretary of State and other right hon. and hon. Members. It gives me no pleasure to do so, for I am proud of the borough in which my constituency is situated, but I cannot be proud of the record of this local authority Labour Party, and it is for that reason only that I mention Hillingdon.

The Labour Party gained control of Hillingdon in 1971 by a minority vote. It controls the council because of the way in which the ward boundaries are arranged—a situation which the Labour Party is trying to perpetuate. At the time Labour took over, Hillingdon had one of the lowest rate increases over a two-year period, but it now has one of the highest rates in the pound in the whole of Greater London. Local councillors rightly say that much of this is due to inflation, but inflation hits other local authorities thoughout the length and breadth of the country. In 1974–1975 Hillingdon had a rate increase over the two-year period of 113 per cent. That is more than any other London borough. On its own admission, Hillingdon was spending at the rate of 42 per cent. above the national average for 1974–1975, and the only reason why this year's rate has remained steady is that the taxpayer is bailing out the borough by means of extra grants.

Little or no attempt seems to be made by the Labour Party to control public expenditure. On the contrary, the Labour Party seems to revel in it. The massive expenditure by the council has been constantly criticised, not just by the Conservative opposition on the council but by the Press and the local ratepayers' associations, and it is now attracting unwelcome national attention. I say "unwelcome" because it is unwelcome to the people who live there and do not necessarily support the Labour Party's policies. A recent article in the Daily Mail appeared under this title: What the hell are they playing at in Hillingdon? What are they playing at with my money on my doorstep?

In case it should be thought that I am exaggerating, I would explain that the council is spending £15 million on a new civic centre—air conditioned of course. It was originally estimated to cost £3·2 million. It incorporates a Swedish telephone system, personally chosen by the Labour leader of the council, which can take special video equipment enabling callers to see as well as speak to officials—a doubtful privilege.