Rate Support Grant (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:01 pm on 27th June 1985.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 4:01 pm, 27th June 1985

Yes, and social workers. Unlike the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. McQuarrie), I do not think that the term "social workers" is an insult. They do a useful job. An authority such as Strathclyde cannot find £67 million at the fag end of the year. This announcement will result in an unreasonable and unreasoning butchery of local government services.

Last year the excess in Central region was £4 million and the penalty £3 millon. This year the excess is slightly down—about £4 million—but instead of £3 million the penalty will be £7 million. Does the right hon. Gentleman expect to be thanked by his political allies in Lothian region, which in 1985–86 has an excess over guidelines of £7·5 million and which will be asked to pay a penalty of £8·8 million? In other words, Lothian region will be brought below the already completely inadequate guidelines that have been set by the Secretary of State. Lothian is not unique. Tayside is in exactly the same position.

What about some of the hideous complexities that will now face Edinburgh district council? The right hon. Gentleman seems determined to throw everything at the situation, including the kitchen sink—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Will he confirm that Edinburgh will be deprived of the entire needs element of its rate support grant settlement? Even if it meets his demands—because of the right hon. Gentleman's allegation that its spending is excessive and unreasonable — and makes cuts of £16·3 million, it will still be faced with more than £1 million in penalties as a result of this announcement.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept, as any fair-minded person would, that his announcement is a recipe for chaos and that he is deliberately creating confrontation while at the same time parading around Scotland lamenting and complaining about the very crisis for which he is largely responsible? Even now, at this late date, will not he make some contribution to settling a difficult and dangerous situation by abandoning what amounts to no more than a pointless and punitive campaign against local democracy in Scotland?