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Rate Poundage

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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16.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will estimate the average rise in rate poundage of Welsh local authorities in the next financial year.

Rating decisions by local authorities will be taken in the light of the 1982–83 rate support grant settlement. I shall be putting proposals to the Welsh local authority associations very shortly. However, I shall expect local authorities to keep rate increases to the absolute minimum consistent with the settlement.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the predictions that rates in South Glamorgan will rise by between 25p and 30p in the pound and that Howells department store in Cardiff reckons that for every 3p rise in rates one job is lost in its store, and therefore that a 30p rise in the rates will mean the loss of 10 jobs in one store alone, which can be maximised over the area?

It is not possible to make accurate predictions until the settlement is available. However, I see no possible reason for an increase of that order—except that a Labour council has taken over from a Conservative one.

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that no local authority will be allowed, on the pretext of not having finances available, to fail to undertake such statutory responsibilities as those under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and that if they need additional funds to carry out the requirements of such legislation it will be incumbent upon them to raise that money by means of increased rates?

It will be for local authorities to meet their statutory obligations, which means deciding on the allocation of their priorities and whether it is necessary to maintain all service and all manning levels in every case.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House his estimate of the amount of rate revenue lost as a result of tens of thousands of square feet of factory space lying empty in many local authorities and the corresponding loss of jobs associated with that empty space?

No, but I am told day in and day out by industry about the very large number of jobs being lost because of the high rate burdens placed upon industry and commerce.