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Volume 113: debated on Wednesday 1 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the average rate increase in the current year (a) for councils under Conservative control, (b) for non-rate capped councils under Labour control, (c) for councils under alliance control and (d) councils under joint alliance/Labour control.

On average, rates in Conservative councils are up 5·4 per cent. compared with 12·4 per cent. for non-rate capped Labour councils, and 10·7 per cent. for councils under the control of the Social Democrats and/or Liberals. Political control in many of the councils with no overall control is unclear. The average rate increase in all such councils is 8·5 per cent. For those shire counties for which we have information, councils under joint alliance/ Labour control are raising rates by significantly more than are those under joint Conservative/alliance control.

Does my hon. Friend agree that his answer shows that authorities controlled by the Socialists or hung councils controlled by the Opposition parties have increased the rates by 100 per cent.? Therefore, does he not agree that a fairer system of local accountability and local expenditure should be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity?

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. It is because the present system does not allow for proper accountability that the Opposition parties are so in favour of it.

The real reason why the figures highlight the problems about which the Minister speaks is that there is industrial deprivation and great unemployment in the north of England. Will the Minister give an assurance that under the new system, the poll tax, the poor, old-age pensioners, the widows and the unemployed will not suffer by having to pay the 20 per cent. extra that he proposes in the poll tax?

The figures that I have given do not refer specifically to the north or to the south. In Gloucestershire, for example, there has been a massive increase in the rates, but I am not aware that that county has a particular problem as a result of unemployment.