Special Charging Orders

Part of Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 5th April 1982.

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Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill 8:45 pm, 5th April 1982

The Minister may now understand the strength of feeling of the Liberal Party on the matter and why I moved the new clause. I suppose that I am unlucky to represent an inner city constituency, which is not so beautiful as those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I am equally unlucky that my constituency does not have any town councils. That is not the fault of the city council, as some of its members tried to introduce town councils but the mover was turned down by other members of the city council. That is unfortunate as there is a role in cities for the same form of authority that my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) described.

It is regrettable that parish, town and community councils are treated with some disdain and contempt merely because they operate on a small scale. I am disappointed that the Government have not found a formula, or even shown themselves prepared to find a formula in another place, to rectify the obvious injustice whereby parish councils desperately doing their best are penalised because rate support is not handed on to them or because other parish councils in the area are not doing the same job and so they are being discriminated against.

It cannot be beyond the wit of the officials in Marsham Street and the people who have given us rate support grant settlements, block grants, county councils, housing investment programmes, housing revenue accounts and the rest, to find some way to ensure that parish councils receive a fair return for the efforts that they put in, usually on a purely voluntary basis. People further on in local government, on district and county councils, are often reasonably well remunerated for their services, but members of parish, town and community councils usually serve in an entirely voluntary capacity, giving their time free to the local community in the very best traditions of local government in this country.

I am therefore glad that the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed both supported the new clause and accepted that there is a desperate need to do something about this, but I am disappointed that the Minister could not give the assurances that we sought. I do not intend to press the matter to a Division today, but I hope that the Minister will understand the anger that is felt, not just by many Members of Parliament but by members of the National Association of Local Councils. I conclude by reading to the House the first paragraph of a letter from the secretary of that association. He says: I hope you may feel able to support the new clause, whose effect is to entitle the 8,600 parish, town and community councils in England and Wales to their fair share of the block grant paid to the district councils. That is what the new clause is about—a fair deal for parish, community and town councils.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the new clause.