asked the Secretary of State for Wales what factor he proposes to include for inflation of (a) salaries and wages and (b) goods and services in arriving at the rate support grant settlement for Welsh local authorities for 1982–83.
I shall be consulting the local authority associations in Wales shortly on my proposals for the 1982–83 RSG settlement.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great fear among Welsh local authorities that all that he will include for wage and salary settlements is about 4 per cent., whereas the going rate is substantially above that, and that this will be a back-door way of squeezing out jobs or pushing up rates? Can he assure the House that the allowance for wages and salaries will be realistic?
I am certain that the overall settlement for Wales will be very fair and reasonable. But, as it is intended shortly to consult local authorities under the statutory arrangements, and as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making a general statement later in the week, it would be wrong to anticipate those announcements.
How can the right hon. Gentleman help the local education authorities that are coping with the problem of cuts and the withdrawal of free bus services? Has the right hon. Gentleman been following the issue in my constituency of the village of Broughton, whose children, it seems, must walk to school at Saltney?
That is a matter for the local authority, which has its own priorities, to decide for itself. My desire is to make sure that Wales gets a fair and adequate share of the available resources and that the overall settlement is satisfactory. When we come to make the necessary announcements, I think that it will be thought to be a very reasonable settlement.
Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence in the Cabinet to ensure that the Local Government Finance Bill is dropped, in view of the tremendous opposition to it in Wales and on both of the House? In calculating the inflation rate, will he have regard to the tax and price index as well as to the retail price index to ensure that local authorities do not have to bear an additional burden because of the inflationary policies of the Government?
In deciding these matters we shall take account of all factors, including the penal demands placed on some ratepayers by a number of high-spending local authorities.