October 6, 1987 INDEX
Ratecapping appeal dangers

Fifteen ratecapped councils have written to Environment Secretary Nicholas Ridley asking for discussions. JIM ARNISON looks at the implications.

LOCAL authorities ratecapped by the Tory government for 1988/89 are wary of appealing to Environment Secretary Nicholas Ridley in case he uses his dictatorial powers to make things even worse.

Now the leaders of 15 ratecapped Labour councils have signed a letter to Mr Ridley asking for urgent discussions.

The councils are seeking clarification and assurances "of the procedures for re-determination of our expenditure levels."

Manchester's level of spending has been set at £316,594,000. This means cuts of £110.4 million in the city's services.

Manchester council leader Graham Stringer said: "If we appeal, Mr Ridley could decide to increase our level of spending and so reduce the damage to our essential services.

"Unfortunately he also has the power to further cut our level of spending."

Even if Mr Ridley did agree not to force such severe cuts he could at the same time take direct control over part of Manchester's services.

Councillor Stringer said: "For example, the government believes that our rents should be increased by about £12 a week.


"Manchester already suffers enough interferences from Whitehall and we could not risk giving it control of our council's rents policy."

However, if Manchester fails to comply with any such direction from Mr Ridley he could use that failure as a reason to ratecap the city again in future years-- even if the city did not qualify for ratecapping.

In a statement to Parliament on July 23 Mr Ridley made it clear that he would not be repeating promises he had made previously not to use his draconian powers to cut spending levels or to impose conditions on cash use if local authorities appealed.

Councillor Stringer said: "This means that ratecapped local authorities, however good the financial case they can make out, will be entering a minefield if they lodge appeals against levels of spending."

The 15 local authorities signing the letter to Mr Ridley are Manchester, Liverpool, Waltham Forest, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newcastle on Tyne, Baling, Camden, Hackney, Haringey, Southwark, Middlesbrough, Thamesdown and Kingston-upon-Hull.

Although remaining opposed to the overall powers given to the government through ratecapping a number of authorities have in the past raised with the government their concern about the way in which ratecapping has operated.

Two years ago, six local authorities selected for ratecapping entered discussions with the Environment Department about their spending levels.

Last year, 11 of the 20 ratecapped councils wanted to do so, but were prevented by the advent of the Local Government Finance Bill.

Specific questions which the local authorities believe have not been taken account of sufficiently when spending levels are determined include the soaring cost of bed and breakfast charges to a number of authorities who are prevented from tackling increasing homelessness by the government's financial and housing policies."

The authorities say it is impossible to raise such issues without running the risk of worsening their difficulties.

Morning Star October 6, 1987.
Click to return to index