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Volume 892: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will convene a meeting of representatives of the new regional and district authorities to discuss the rates which they will levy in 1975–76.

My right hon. Friend met the new Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on 25th April and further meetings with it on local government finance will be held every three or four months. These will give opportunities for discussing expenditure, grants and rates.

Does the Minister accept that there is serious concern on the part of both business and domestic ratepayers in Scotland about the likely rates level this year? Certain local authority treasurers have said that their problems at present are like a nightmare. Will he therefore give some guidance to the people of Scotland and to local authorities about the maximum percentage increase which he, as a Minister, would regard as reasonable this year?

I think that the hon. Gentleman's questions are like a nightmare, but it is a private nightmare which is not shared by people in Scotland in the eventuality. As I have pointed out on previous occasions, one of the most effective ways of keeping rates down—I have already said in answer to an earlier question that we have given the biggest rate support grant settlement ever in the current year—is by ensuring that local authority expenditure is strictly controlled. Local authorities would be helped in that regard if they did not have constant demands by Opposition Members to increase their expenditure.