asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the percentage increase in the rate support grant payable to Berkshire over the last three years.
Berkshire's entitlement to needs element under the main RSG Orders for 1975–76 and 1976–77 showed increases of 35 per cent. and 19 per cent., respectively, over the corresponding payments for the preceding year. The initial entitlement for 1977–78 shows a reduction of 3 per cent. from the 1976–77 total.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is a cut of £5 million in the grant aid to Berkshire? Is it not crazy that my constituency of Reading should be made a housing stress area while, at the same time, the grant is cut so that we cannot provide the facilities needed—particularly in areas of high-rise flats and housing stress?
We do recognise the problems of Reading but, as I think the hon. Gentleman recognises, Reading is only a part of Berkshire. The assessment of the needs element covers the county as a whole. Out of that grant and out of the assessment of need—which, of course, includes the specific problems of Reading—one hopes that Berkshire will see that the resources are diverted to where they are most needed.
Has the hon. Gentleman given any thought to allocating certain sums out of the rate support grant for special categories of expenditure?
Some thought is being given to the topic of specific grants but I am not in a position to say anything on that point now.