Rating Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd May 1988.

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Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy , Torfaen 12:00 am, 23rd May 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what measures he will be taking to help Welsh local authorities in defraying the administrative costs of implementing the community charge.

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

The Government have made it clear that additional resources will be made available to help local authorities with the extra capital and revenue costs of setting up the new system. We are discussing those matters with the associations.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy , Torfaen

Is the Minister aware that his Conservative colleague, the chairman of the Association of District Councils in Britain as a whole, recently visited Cardiff and told Welsh local authorities that the cost of implementing the poll tax would be £10 million and that it would cost £17 million to run? That is far in excess of the amount that the Government originally intended. Does he agree that that is yet another example of an unnecessary burden on the Welsh people?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

We do not have to go to an English Conservative, because the Committee of Welsh District Councils is looking into the matter, although we do not expect to have its estimates until next month. The Government have commissioned a firm of management consultants to survey a sample of local authorities in England and Wales to report on the cost of implementation and operation to assist us in our considerations. That report is due soon.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Will my hon. Friend make every effort to arrange for the tightest controls lest local councils use the community charge as an excuse for a spending spree? Surely that much simpler and fairer tax will involve less cost per person because it will not involve the complex calculations for which the anachronistic formula for rates presently calls.

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

My hon. Friend is right. Costs will be incurred in setting up the system, but once it is running it will not be more expensive than the present one.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

The Minister says that he does not need an English Conservative to make his calculations. It is notable that in Newport, East the Tory party turned to English Conservatives to ride their candidates twice in constituency elections. It is one of those Conservatives who has given us these figures.

Can the Minister tell the House which local authorities will take part in the Welsh estimate? Does he realise that there will be an enormous increase in the burden of work? It has been estimated that in one county council the number of accounts will increase from 140,000 to 375,000, that the number paying by instalments will increase ninefold, that the number of distress warrants will increase tenfold, and that the number of payments will increase from 500,000 to 3·5 million. Is it not time for Welsh Office Ministers to protect Wales from this Tory tax, which is unfair and unnecessary?

Photo of Mr Ian Grist Mr Ian Grist , Cardiff Central

The hon. Gentleman is yet again using guesstimates in an attempt to scare people away from what will be a thoroughly fair and easily understood tax. The Opposition are clearly afraid of it because it will show up the wasteful expenditure for which so many members of the Labour party are guilty in local government.