Below is the text of Mr Major’s interventions during the Local Government Expenditure debate held on 27th February 1980.
Mr. Major asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of local government revenue expenditure was accounted for by staff wages and salaries as at (a) the financial year 1973–74 and (b) the latest date for which information is available.
Mr. Heseltine In 1973–74 wage and salary costs accounted for just over 50 per cent. of gross local government revenue expenditure of 71 per cent. of gross current expenditure. In 1978–79, the figures were 51 per cent. and 69 per cent. respectively.
Mr. Major I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that it indicates an imperative need to continue to restrain staff levels and levels of wage settlements in local government? Will he urge on local authorities, wherever possible, a policy of retrenchment in staffing levels to ensure that the money available is used for services rather than excessive staffing?
Mr. Heseltine I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing these important points to the attention of the House. I have asked local authorities to constrain manpower recruitment wherever possible. I am absolutely sure that, in the present climate of public expenditure, the more that the available resources can be used to provide services rather than increase the number of employees the better.
Mr. Ian Lloyd May I endorse the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major)? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in my local authority the increase in the wage and salary component last year was 39 per cent.? If that is 39 per cent. of 70 per cent., how can it possibly be said that local councillors are effectively in control of finances in their authority?
Mr. Heseltine The present levels of rate fixing indicate that there are considerable numbers of Conservative authorities that are very much in control and therefore able to effect considerable constraint in the rate levels. It must be a matter for the individual judgment and accountability of the local authority and its councillors in each area.