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Rate Support Grant (England)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:11 pm on 26th July 1983.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford 5:11 pm, 26th July 1983

I read in the press that the leader of the GLC has threatened to take to the streets if his authority is abolished. I think that many Londoners would regard that as a good bargain.

There are important decisions to make that will effect a number of services and involve tens of thousands of employees. That is why we intend to consult widely with those affected, including staff interests, before legislation is introduced. The Bill will not be introduced until the next Session. It will therefore be introduced in the autumn of 1984. If Parliament passes the Bill, the restructuring will take place on 1 April 1986. I am aware that a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends are anxious for the upper tier of authorities to be ended sooner than that. However, it is more important that we get it right than that we do it quickly. We must therefore allow time for proper consultation and time to draft the legislation carefully. If we rush it, I suspect that we shall get it wrong. I do not intend to get it wrong.

Rate limitation and the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties represent major changes for local government. That does not in any way remove the obligation on local authorities to keep their spending under tight control and to do their best to live within the targets that I shall set. The reports spell out the impact on local authorities of overspending and, in the case of the earlier one, the adjustment to the grant as later figures have become available. They flow inevitably from decisions that were announced by my predecessors and which were approved by the House. I therefore ask the House to give the reports its approval.