§ 49. Mr. Peter Bruinvels
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what response he has had from those councils, including Leicester, since he announced their rate-capping figures.
§ Mr. Waldegrave:
Most designated authorities have made some response to the rate or precept limits I proposed. Where relevant information has been provided it is being taken into account.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin:
On 4 February I met councillors from 17 of the local authorities selected for rate limitation, and from nine other local authorities.
They asked me not to implement the system of targets and holdback for 1985–86; not to implement the rate limitation procedures contained in the Rates Act; to delay the timetable for debating precept limits; to put forward a detailed assessment of the impact of rate capping on local communities; to indicate the assumptions I had made in setting rate and precept limits; to restore block grant to earlier levels; and to agree to a joint commission of inquiry into local government finance.
In response I explained that, notwithstanding the failure of the 17 authorities represented to discuss the expenditure levels announced last July, and the rate limits announced on 11 December, I saw the meeting as an opportunity for individual rate-capped authorities to make representations about their proposed rate or precept limit as provided for in the Rates Act. I repeated an earlier offer to indicate, in the context of such discussions with an individual authority, the assumptions I had made in calculating their rate limit. I explained that even as such a late stage my mind was still open if any individual authority wished to make new information available to me, but that time was short in view of my duty to implement the procedures in the Rates Act within the overall rating timetable.
I pointed out that both the rate support grant report which determined the level of grant for 1985–86, and the Rates Act, had been approved by Parliament in January and that I could not go against the will of Parliament by not implementing them. I also pointed out that the target and holdback arrangements for 1985–86 had been announced in the RSG report and would already be influencing local authorities' budget-making processes. I repeated the Government's wish to abandon targets and holdbacks if possible for 1986–87.
On the proposal for a commission of inquiry, I explained that such work was already in hand, in the form of the imminent report of the National Audit Office on the block grant system and the studies of the local government finance system currently being undertaken in my Department.