HL Deb 14 March 1979 vol 399 cc633-4

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what reactions they have received from local authorities to the proposals for reorganisation now contained in the White Paper Organic Change in Local Government (Cmnd. 7457).


My Lords, the consultation period does not end until 31st March. So far, the Government have received responses from the Association of District Councils and from 78 local authorities.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. She does not say what answers were received and it will be interesting to know. Would she agree that, however dissatisfied one may be with local government arrangements, such a rapid further change is going to be very bothering to the ratepayers and local authority employees? At the present time, nobody knows who to write to or where to go regarding any complaints or anything that they want.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, so far as the latter part of the noble Baroness's supplementary question is concerned, we are hoping that the limited changes we are proposing under Organic Change are ones which will make it easier for people to identify with their councils for the services with which they are being provided. As regards the numbers of authorities who have responded, and the sort of response we have had, that is a little difficult to ascertain before 31st March. We have heard from 68 district councils and have had 10 replies from county councils. As I say, we have had replies from the Association of District Councils, but we have not yet heard officially from the Association of County Councils, the AMA or the GLC. After 31st March we shall have to analyse the replies, and then no doubt have the necessary consultations with the local authority organisations following that, before a Bill is prepared to bring to the House.


My Lords, will my noble friend accept that the more often we swap around functions as between one authority and another, the more difficult it will be for people to identify with or relate to which local authority does what job?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, there are always difficulties after local government reorganisation. There have always been difficulties. I was in local government for some thirty years before I came to this House, and it was always extremely difficult for me to persuade my electors that I was a county councillor responsible for certain services and somebody else was responsible for something else on our city council. This is something we have had to learn to live with over the years. We all hope that the very limited changes that we are proposing under Organic Change are changes which will bring the immediate services much closer to the people, and that they will know where to go to make their complaints and suggestions.