HC Deb 30 April 1980 vol 983 cc1372-3
20. Mr. Gummer

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has for ensuring that ratepayers can assess the performance of their district and county councils in getting value for money.

Mr. King

I am seeking powers in the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill to ensure that local authorities publish more information about their performance in a form that will help the public to make more informed judgments. I have recently arranged for the publication, for the first time, of individual authorities' total manpower figures, and also summaries of the time taken to determine planning applications.

Mr. Gummer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those who live in authorities such as Suffolk county council—which has always gone in for good housekeeping—find it galling that other county councils spend huge sums of money per head of the population yet still complain that they have not got enough? Should it not be possible for people to see clearly, when comparing one authority with another, which are the good authorities—largely Conservative-controlled—and which are the wasteful ones?

Mr. King

If more meaningful information and the power to make comparisons were available, it would help to make local authorities accountable and would provide better information to the electorate. I hope that our proposals will be helpful in that respect.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that Bolsover district council has recently dealt with this matter? It is clear that the Government are largely responsible for a rent increase—as a result of subsidies and so on—and consequently, Bolsover district council has set out where the money goes. Does not he accept that nearly 60 per cent. goes in interest charges?

Mr. King

I must admit that I have not examined the affairs of Bolsover district council in detail. As a generality—I should be interested to see how Bolsover district council fits into it—the level of rate increases in Labour-controlled authorities is high. I imagine that, like other Labour-controlled authorities, Bolsover has made increases that are well above the average.

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