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Rate Support Grant (Cheshire)

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 5 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he can now say what rate support grant for 1975–76 will be available to the Cheshire County Council.

The county council now has details of its initial needs element grant entitlement. The figure is some £46·8 million. The county will also benefit indirectly from the resources element grant.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that gracious and informative answer, but is he aware that the ratepayers of Cheshire, as elsewhere in the country, experienced massive rate increases last year? Even with a no-growth situation for all services, they will experience this year further massive increases, certainly in excess of 35 per cent. Will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Secretary of State to bring in special rate relief for domestic ratepayers because of the intolerable situation which faces them?

I do not think that Cheshire can complain too much about the meanness of the central Government. The grant this year is 47 per cent. higher in money terms that it was last year, and Cheshire has received £12 million through our increase order for 1974–75.

We are exceedingly grateful to my right hon. Friend for the extra money, which was exceedingly useful to the Cheshire County Council. The sooner we can offer a fundamental review of the entire rating system, however, the sooner we shall get away from the nonsense which requires very substantial grants from the central Government for absolutely essential services.

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. We are all concerned about the effect of rates from whichever side of the House we come. It was for that purpose that the Layfield committee of inquiry was set up by my right hon. Friend.