Skip to main content

Local Government Staff

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the latest estimate of local government staff numbers in England and Wales.

The latest figures, taken from the December 1979 return of the joint manpower watch, are 1,724,768 full-time employees and 936,536 part-time employees, making a total of 2,661,304 or 2,090,769 full-time equivalents.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those figures demonstrate that over the past 12 months the only real growth area in some Labour-controlled councils has been in the increase in staff? Will he advise those local authorities how they might achieve savings, with consequent benefits to the ratepayers?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that there have been staff increases in too many authorities. I have no doubt that the publication of these figures will come as a profound shock to large numbers of authorities and their councillors of all political parties throughout the country. Because we have, for the first time, a basis of fact against which judgment can be made, I hope now that when local authorities next discuss running their authorities under tight control, they will be able to do so in comparison with other authorities similiar to themselves.

Will the Secretary of State agree that efficiency of local government would be better served without the dispute involving NALGO? Will he further agree that that association has acted responsibly, whereas the employers have acted totally irresponsibly? Will he talk to employers and press upon them the need to reach an early and amicable conclusion?

I am sure that that was an extremely good question. It had only one deficiency—I did not hear a word of it.

I shall repeat my question. Will the Secretary of State agree that efficiency in local Government would be improved if we did not have an industrial dispute involving local government officers? That dispute is not necessary. It has been caused by the irresponsible, reprehensible and dishonourable actions of local authority employers who have failed to honour a commitment on the joint pay study.

I would have thought that the hon. Member would have felt as I do—that the local authorities should be left to make these decisions for themselves, rather than have the Secretary of State do it for them.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that there are certain circumstances which should be qualified? For example, Buckinghamshire has a greatly increased child population. Consequently the local authority needs to employ more teachers.

I have no doubt that each local authority will want to qualify its own figures. But the mere fact that there is an increase in demand in one area does not mean that there could not be compensating economies in other areas.

Will the Secretary of State accept that by virtue of—[Interruption.]—I note, Mr. Speaker, that Parliament is being turned into "Comic Cuts" judging by the apparel of some hon. Members who have just come in. Will the Minister accept that, by virtue of the last question, many Conservative-controlled authorities have actually increased services? Will the right hon. Member now stop his ceaseless attack on local authority services, many of which are vital and many of which represent first-class value for money? Is he aware that there are many thousands of dedicated local Government employees who do their best to provide decent services?

Of course there are many thousands of local authority employees who do their best—and often succeed—to provide a first-class service. The question is whether it is necessary to employ all of them in the public sector. That is the matter to be decided by local authorities in the context of what the country can afford. The fact is that the country can no longer afford the present levels of staffing that we have in some authorities.