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Lord Whitty: We dealt with the issue of the effect of a negative council tax at an earlier stage, and I believe that the same issues apply in relation to this amendment and non-police services. The noble Baroness has in a sense anticipated my comments. There is no obvious reason why the GLA should be treated differently from other local authorities in this respect. If there is a grant it should not be offset by a reduction in council tax for a different service area. It would be odd for us to alter that principle in relation to these provisions. I did not hear any specific argument advanced by the noble Baroness to indicate why we should change it in this respect when we did not accept the argument in the earlier debate and we do not accept it generally across local authorities.

Baroness Hamwee: I hoped that we might have had a slightly more imaginative reply, accepting that reasonable flexibility was something to be encouraged. We have not argued for a change with regard to other authorities because they are not the subject-matter of this Bill. But if something does not work as well as it might so that in effect money goes back into the pockets of taxpayers, it does not seem to us that the fact it cannot be undertaken in other authorities means that it should not be undertaken in London. We regard this as an important point, but clearly we are not making headway, at any rate at the moment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 73, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 74 [Additional calculations: special item for part of Greater London]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 220G to 220K:


Page 41, line 41, after ("report") insert ("or determination").
Page 42, line 1, after ("report") insert ("or determination"").

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Page 42, line 5, leave out ("any of paragraph (b), (c) or (d)") and insert ("paragraph (b) or (c)").
Page 42, line 7, at end insert--
("( ) in the case of the item specified in paragraph (d) of that definition, the determination under section 85 below for the financial year in question;").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 74, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 75 and 76 agreed to.

Clause 77 [Calculation of tax for different valuation bands]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 221:


Page 43, line 26, at end insert--
("(4) Where the precepting authority is the Greater London Authority, within one week of the Greater London Authority having calculated the amount to be stated under section 40(2)(a) in respect of any billing authority in Greater London in relation to each category of dwellings in that billing authority's area, the Greater London Authority shall cause to be published such amount in relation to each category of dwellings in that billing authority's area, these amounts to be expressed both as annual and weekly figures, publication to be by way of a prominent printed announcement in at least one local newspaper circulating in that billing authority's area and nominated by that billing authority.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would oblige the GLA to publicise the consequences of its decisions about precept in the form of an estimate of its effect on council tax payers as soon as it has established its budget. This would enhance the accountability of the mayor and the assembly to London's taxpayers and so improve the democratic and open, I hope, nature of London's new authority. If we can ensure that the GLA publishes in local newspapers details of the amount for each category of houses in the area expressed as both annual and weekly figures, Londoners will be able to see exactly how much of their personal council tax bills arise from immediate decisions of the GLA. Thereafter, the Greater London Authority will not be able to hide the consequences of its spending decisions within an overall council tax bill. The boroughs must also determine their precept and, despite all of the potential difficulties in the process as a result of the Bill, an aggregate precept then goes to the council tax payer.

It is important for the council tax payer to know how the Greater London Authority taxes have been determined; and, more importantly, how the mayor and the assembly as the Greater London Authority are ordering London's affairs in the interests of London's residents; a mayor and an assembly whose decisions on taxation and spending are visible to the public immediately are more likely always to behave in a responsible manner. It seems to me that the Government cannot oppose the amendment.

In their White Paper, the Government promised that Londoners will be able to choose the person in charge of their city to ensure that he or she--I have included "she" for once; I must be slipping--is publicly accountable for his or her action. Our amendment ensures just that.

The White Paper also promised that under the new regime local people will better understand, and have a greater say in, expenditure and council tax decisions. In view of our previous debates, I admit that there is some

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doubt about whether local people will have any understanding of the process under which the Greater London Authority achieves its final budget decisions. Be that as it may, we have to go on.

The White Paper also stated that the Government are in favour of keeping spending in check. Our amendment, which will let people know immediately a decision has been taken, will help that.

The Government claim to be in favour of open government. I dare say that they will tell me that the amendment is unnecessary since it is similar to some which have been moved earlier today; and of course all this information goes out to the rate payer. If the Government chose to tell me that the amendment is unnecessary because of the assiduity of local newspapers which will be likely to take this calculation and interpret it immediately for its impact on a specific borough of London, that might be a reasonable explanation. But I do not regard the advent of a fairly closely printed, albeit detailed and clear, sheet of paper which sets out the Greater London Authority's decisions and their consequences, which arrives in the home of the council tax payer two and a half months later, as answering the point that the amendment seeks to bring home. I pay tribute to the press for the work that they do. But I suspect that the Government will tell me that the amendment is unnecessary for different but, to me, inadequate reasons. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The noble Lord is not slipping; he or she is growing!

Under demand notice regulations brought in by the previous government in 1993, all council tax payers are sent a demand notice which is required to show the amount of council tax payable to a major precepting authority for their property. As a major precepting authority, the GLA is required to provide details to billing authorities so that they can be included.

The noble Lord obviously lives in a different household from many of us. In the past I have faced someone across the breakfast table, who looked at me sternly and said, "Are you responsible for this?" One of my sons also refused to be dropped off by me at a new girlfriend's front door to collect her because, as he explained, "Her father doesn't know you're the 'Rates Farrington' yet". So the noble Lord's world in which people do not peruse their bills in detail is one that I do not recognise.

All those people liable will therefore know the full details of the amount of GLA precept that they are required to pay. Publishing the information in local newspapers would involve local authorities in additional administration and costs which would have to be found from their budgets. For those reasons, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response to the amendment. It was entirely along the lines I expected. However, I am disappointed and shall study it. But I am grateful for the

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fact that the press will be more likely to do the job so that the amendment may be unnecessary. Although the Government's answer is factual, it is not adequate. It would have been better if they had been prepared to accept the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 77 agreed to.

Clause 78 agreed to.

Clause 79 [Substitute calculations under section 49 of the 1992 Act]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 221A:


Page 44, line 6, leave out subsection (2) and insert--
("( ) For subsection (1) (power to make substitute calculations) there shall be substituted--
"(1) A major precepting authority which has made calculations in relation to a financial year in accordance with--
(a) sections 43 to 48 above (originally or by way of substitute),
(b) sections 70 to 75 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and sections 47 and 48 above, or
(c) sections 70, 71 and 73 to 75 of, and Schedule 6 to, that Act and sections 47 and 48 above (by way of substitute),
may make calculations in substitution in relation to the year in accordance with the relevant provisions.
(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, the relevant provisions are--
(a) in a case falling within paragraph (a), the provisions specified in that paragraph; and
(b) in a case falling within paragraph (b) or (c), the provisions specified in paragraph (c)."").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I speak to the other grouped amendments which are technical in nature.

Amendments Nos. 221A, 221D, 222A, 223A, 223B, 223D, 224A, 225B, and 225C ensure that, whenever the GLA carries out substitute calculations, either because it decides to or because it is required to, it does so under the relevant provisions, primarily Schedule 6.

If these amendments were not made, the Bill would appear to require substitute calculations to be made in accordance with Schedule 5. That would not be practical as Schedule 5 requires calculations to be made by the end of February, and the need for substitute calculations may well arise after that date.

Schedule 6 instead provides the appropriate procedure, and sets out the roles of the mayor and assembly in making the substitute calculations. The amendments make that clear.

Amendment No. 221B eliminates an unintended effect of the GLA's power to make substitute calculations. It makes clear that the mayor and assembly cannot reallocate money from one constituent body--that is, the GLA and the four functional bodies--to another part of the way through the financial year except in circumstances where they have to do so in accordance

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with Clause 81, so as to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Authority budget is adequate following a direction from the Secretary of State; or in accordance with Clause 82, in the event of an emergency or disaster. Apart from those two areas, the mayor and the assembly will have the power to make substitute calculations only to cut both the consolidated and component budgets. A newly elected mayor may wish to do that.

However, this does not mean that the mayor and the assembly have no powers to transfer money from one body to another. In a situation where there is an underspend, Clause 106 empowers the GLA, and, with the mayor's consent, the functional bodies, to pay revenue grants to one another. This will ensure that any "spare" money need not go to waste.

Amendments Nos. 221C and 223C remove unnecessary regulation-making powers from the Bill, and make clear under which powers the regulations referred to in Clauses 79 and 80 are to be made. These are technical and clarifying amendments. I beg to move.


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