asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to transfer powers from Staffordshire county council to Tamworth and Lichfield district councils as part of his scheme for organic change in local government.
The Government's proposals for transferring powers from counties to districts are contained in the White Paper on organic change in local government published last week. Under these proposals, districts with a population below 100,000 will not be eligible for any transfers, and on that basis the powers of Tamworth borough council and Lichfield district councils will remain unchanged. In common with all districts in England, however, they will become responsible for all but a narrow range of planning decisions.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, while his White Paper is right in principle, it is none the less a considerable disappointment and anti-climax? Many of us had hoped he would be doing far more to repair the damage of the Tories' 1972 reorganisation. Will my right hon. Friend admit, even at this late stage, that many of the old county boroughs operated perfectly well with populations of 60,000 and 70,000? Why cannot he respond to the wishes of the Labour Party in Lichfield and Tamworth, and elsewhere, and transfer powers from counties?
I am afraid that we have to look at this realistically. My hon. Friend knows that my disposition is in favour of looking to smaller local government units rather than larger ones. If we were to go far below the cut-off level of 100,000 we would have units of administration dealing with personal social services and traffic management which would not easily cater for the kind of services, with their specialities, which are needed today.