asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the cumulative reduction in the rate support grant since 1979 expressed at 1986–87 prices.
The cumulative reduction in rate support grant between 1979–80 and 1986–87 in England amounted to £12·75 billion in 1986–87 prices. The cumulative increase in spending by local authorities in England over the same period amounted to £9·5 billion in 1987–87 prices.
Is it not true that the rate support grant for Cumbria has been cut from 75 to 50 per cent. of net expenditure over those years? Does the Secretary of State understand that in the county of Cumbria we have now lost £60 million in the current year on a budget of £220 million and that we cannot afford it unless rates go up or services are cut? Does the Secretary of State understand that the people of Cumbria do not want that kind of politics and that we cannot afford it? Will he now re-examine the whole question of those settlements?
The hon. Gentleman knows that for the past eight years the Government have been transferring some of the burden from central to local taxes for local authorities. I merely make the point that, far from containing their expenditure, it has had no such effect, and local authorities have, in fact, increased it by £9·5 billion cumulatively over the same period.
Is not the question of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) nonsense? Surely there has been a massive increase in real spending in many of the Labour authorities? They have been spending as though there were no tomorrow. Had there been no rate capping, Leicester, for instance, would have been in a diabolical situation. Leicester has been allowed to twin with Nicaragua, create the Nelson Mandela park, abuse the system totally, have "go gay" policies and put the ratepayers' interests at the bottom of the line, with party political propaganda on the rates.
I confirm that the real increase in local authority current spending has been 13 per cent. in the past eight years. So whatever else they may be, no one can accuse local authorities of being short of resources.
Not only the House but the whole country will welcome the candour with which the Secretary of State has now confessed that tit has been a deliberate policy of the Government for eight years to switch the burden from central taxation to rates. Is it not also the case, however, as Treasury figures published yesterday demonstrate, that the burden of central taxation for the average family with two children far from decreasing in those eight years, has gone up by about £20 per week? So, the result of the Government's policies after eight years is a massive increase in the rates—the direct result of policy, as he has just said—and an increase in the burden of central taxation as well. What bigger failure could there be than that?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman what bigger failure there could be, and that is if his party got into power and spent another £37 billion a year.