§ 4. Mr. Bill Walker
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to issue guidelines on manning level reductions to local authorities.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)
The reductions in expenditure by local authorities which we propose must mean reductions in staffing as it accounts for 70 per cent. of spending. This has been made clear to local authorities on many occasions since we came into office, and my right hon. Friend does not propose to issue guidelines on staffing reductions in individual authorities.
§ Mr. Walker
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he consider asking local authorities to look carefully at revenue expenditure, and perhaps draw their attention to the private sector—the farming industry in my constituency has had over 160 redundancies this year—as an example that they should follow? The authorities should perhaps look at revenue expenditure and at and large professional departments, such as architects and quantity surveyors, whose work could easily be contracted out.
§ Mr. Rifkind
My hon. Friend is correct. We have sought to impress upon local authorities that their actual increase in manpower over the last year is unacceptable in national economic circumstances. If the Scottish Office can make a substantial reduction in its manpower without affecting the quality of service to the public, local authorities can do the same.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
Is the Minister aware that since local housing authorities have been forced, against 422 their will in the majority of cases, to sell council houses, this must mean an increased legal staff to handle those applications? Will he give an undertaking that where a local authority refuses to take on this staff to conform with the Government policy of restricting manpower he will agree to its refusal to do so?
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that it is not for the Government to approve or disapprove of an individual employment decision by a local authority. What we are concerned with is the overall total. The Government occasionally have to take on staff for new purposes, but overall we are reducing our manpower, in the public interest. Local authorities have failed to do so.