Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 16th December 1981.

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Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment 3:47 pm, 16th December 1981

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that emergencies have been considered favourably in the past, where appropriate. I would obviously discuss these matters with the local authority associations in relevant cases as my predecessors have always done.

As for the claim that there was a growth in the bureaucracy following the reorganisation of local government, any dispassionate observation of the facts will show that this is not the case. From 1956 onwards, local authority manpower increased year by year at an ever-increasing rate. It is difficult to see on the graph the point at which reorganisation took place. It was not until 1973–74 that the first checks to that increase took place, largely as a result of the oil crisis and the effects of the Labour Party.

The hon. Gentleman claims that the patience of local government has been stretched. I pay tribute to those authorities which are co-operating, but I have to make the point that the public and the ratepayer have had their patience stretched beyond endurance in many cases.