asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now make an estimate of the number of local authorities whose rates will show an increase next year of more than 25 per cent.
Less than half of local authorities have so far given us the information for which we asked. It would therefore be premature to give a figure.
Is it because of the absence of a General Election this year that the Secretary of State is not prepared to give any help to ratepayers, such as those in my constituency, who face swingeing increases in rates and real cuts in services?
No, Sir. The reason why the special relief was given last year was that ratepayers and local authorities had been grossly misled by the estimates of the previous—Tory—Secretary of State for the Environment.
Is it not a curious coincidence that both last year and this year the areas which have benefited most from the Secretary of State's rate support grant, and which have therefore been able to keep their rates down, are those which happen to have had local elections?
That, incidentally, is not at all true. The area which benefited most from the needs element in the rate support grant was West Sussex.