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Public Responsibility For Social Justice

Part of Orders of the Day — Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 10th March 1997.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Opposition Whip (Commons) 5:48 pm, 10th March 1997

I beg the pardon of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, who seeks further attention.

The Government's view was that change was vital because of perceived confusion among the public about the roles and functions of district and borough councils and county councils. So vital was it that the status quo was retained in large swathes of England a short time later. During the debates, there were fine words from the Government about the future role and aspirations of local government—"equipping local government for the 21st century" and so on. Fine words they were, but the reality was considerably different.

More than 110 measures have been passed by this House in the past 18 months which have curtailed or adversely affected local government's powers and responsibilities. It is therefore logical that the Government should starve local authorities of funding. After all, the local authorities will have to bear the brunt of complaints from constituents. The same smokescreen which appears between health trusts and the Government is now also appearing between constituents and the Government. Increasingly, people complain to local government when, frankly, the fault lies at the feet of the Government. If the Government do not give local government the resources, it cannot possibly to its job.

It is important that the public know and understand what is happening in local government. The dead hand of central Government is clearly upon it, and councils are expected to make substantial cuts year on year. This year is the sixth successive year of cuts, and one must ask where on earth those cuts are to be made.

On Friday evening, a headmaster of a small primary school came to my surgery and said that he was being asked to cut £10,000 from his budget for the coming year. Last year, he had to cut £4,000. The upshot is that there will be fewer members of staff teaching, and he—in addition to all his administrative tasks—will have to teach in the substantial special needs section of the school. He is desperately concerned and anxious about the future and about the quality of schooling that the school will provide. The school is Dolgarrog school, a few miles away from the school I attended at Llanrwst.