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Lord Gisborough: My Lords, I do not want to get too involved in the rights and wrongs of the Humberside order other than to say that the arguments must be very similar to those for Cleveland. However, unlike Cleveland, I think that Humberside was an unpopular county, particularly in the older rural East Riding, even if that unpopularity has been caused mainly by the prejudice aroused by not being in Yorkshire.
There are many concerns which will have to be addressed and I hope that the Minister will be able to say a word or two about them. There is the whole question of the management of the estuary, with regard to both its environmental and economic significance. Individual new authorities will not be able sensibly to replicate the county council's service with trading standards. Education in respect of special needs will become more difficult for individual authorities to manage economically on a smaller scale, with duplication of specialised control management. Highly specialised social service units such as the guardian ad litem service will have to be duplicated, as will the highways accident investigation team and the materials laboratory, the county archives and emergency planning services. If these are run by joint bodies there will be a reduction in control and accountability. But if run by districts there will be expensive duplication.
Some of the authorities will be new and others continuing authorities. Clearly, the former will take time to establish chief officers and will be far behind the continuing authority in planning for the future. It does seem odd that, when the Government are continually tightening the financial control on local authorities, they should make these changes that will involve the expenditure of millions of pounds. Goole has been in and out and does not know what is going to happen to itself from one day to the next.
The Local Government Commission estimates that the cost of implementation will be £500,000 and the county council estimates that it will be £33 million. Murphy's law suggests that it will be closer to the latter. I believe that the Government long ago decided to have unitary districts or unitary authorities, and the whole process, I suggest, has been a PR exercise to try to prepare for it. Undoubtedly the Government never realised what a hornets' nest they were stirring up and, if they had, they would probably have left the whole thing alone.
With the York order there is still much to be settled in the same way as with Humberside. I am not sure whether the police authority has yet been legally constituted. Staff pensions have to be provided for. There are outstanding problems such as the local legislation applying to trading standards, as in Hull, which will no longer be valid for the new areas coming out of the county council area.
My main reason for speaking tonight is to draw attention to the Yorkshire Museum. This was left to North Yorkshire to run in 1974, when no one was very interested in it either way. Since then it has been greatly enhanced until now it is a regional museum of great importance, employing some 26 full-time staff and having put on some fine exhibitions over the period. The vast majority of its visitors come from outside York: only 3 per cent. come from York, while 97 per cent. come from the rest of the United Kingdom and abroad. As regards exhibits, for example, of the coins displayed, only 2 per cent. were found in the City of York.
The museum supplies exhibitions to many other museums in the region. It is now so successful that York City would like to take it over, but not to continue as it is, but to transform it into a museum to tell the story of York. That would involve dispensing with much of the staff, terminating the exhibition programme, curtailing the inquiry service, and making other changes that would completely tear down all the success built up over the past 20 years.
I was born a Yorkshiremanthough I have become a Clevelander and got used to itbut I still believe that this museum should be preserved with the North Yorkshire County Council. It has a good reputation for managing the museum and it should continue to do so. There is a proposal to run it under joint arrangements with the city, but that really could not work as there is a complete divergence of view as to both the funding arrangements and the direction that the museum should pursue. I hope that the Government will at least listen to those who want to keep the museum where it is.
Lord Bancroft: My Lords, I address my remarks solely and briefly to the North Yorkshire and York order. It is a misguided and shabby little instrument. I support warmly the amendment to it moved so ably by my noble friend Lady Kinloss. But, frankly, I am astonished by her moderation. My remarks of course pay regard to the accustomed disarming presentation of
I mention in passing that we witnessed last Thursday yet another violent U-turn in the Government's policy towards the commission in particular and towards local government in general. These flippant interventions by the Secretary of State for the Environment are not the way to manage change if it were needed, which it is notin a great national institution like local government. The unhappy commission and the even more unhappy former chairman, the manner of whose going became him, set great store by the fact that their recommendations for change should reflect the wishes of local people. They had an embarrassingly loud and tragic hiccup over the first tranche of counties. After that they went to great lengths to try to discover what these wishes were. They spent money like unregulated water in so doing.
But in the event, when it came to York, both the commission and the Government ignored local wishes. They are trying to get together chalk and cheese. As my noble friend Lady Kinloss and a number of other noble Lords and noble Baronesses pointed out, there is remarkably little support in the City of York for its enlargement, and the neighbouring communities which are to be the source of this enlargement uncompromisingly reject it.
As we all know, consistency is a quality infrequently found in governments. But there is something spectacular in this Government's refusal to enlarge other cities and their insistence against all the evidence on enlarging York. Rupert Brooke, I fancy, would have found the inconsistency romantic like the unofficial English rose. Othersof course I am not one of themclaim to have detected the fingerprints of a Mr. G. Mander. So these deeply unpopular, incompetently prepared, costly and actively harmful proposals are being forced through regardless. Never mind the disruption to essential services such as children in need, education, elderly people and handicapped people or the disruption to the police, to staff pensions, to the future of the Yorkshire Museum, which has been mentioned more than once, and to strategic planning.
I pause for one moment as regards strategic planning. The commission and the Government show a touching faith in the ability of the new authority and its neighbours to collaborate in producing future, joint strategic plans. That faith may be unwarranted. Indeed, the Government themselves believed that that would be the case until, with Hamlet-like irresolution, they change their mind in a matter of days. What then? The Government say, "Never mind these important issues. We must press on at all costs with our vision".
Lord Gladwin of Clee: My Lords, I rise to intervene briefly in this debate to welcome the Humberside order, but I do so with mixed feelings. The abolition of Humberside also brings with it the abolition of the
The problem is that the towns south of the Humber, particularly those near the mouth of the Humber, have had a long history of self-government. Grimsby was a county borough from 1891 until the reorganisation in 1974. For years, people in both Grimsby and Cleethorpes thought that the towns should be joined. Those two boroughs are now to be joined, and Immingham is to be included. Having worked for years in Immingham, I am pleased about that. The evidence is that the people warmly support the creation of the new authority. I cannot speak for Glanford and Scunthorpe, although I claim to be able to speak for the people of Cleethorpes and Grimsby.
However, there are problems and although I think I know the answers to some of them, I should like to ask the Minister to comment. First, the area is currently governed by 100 councillors from Cleethorpes Council, Great Grimsby Borough Council and the county council. The unitary authority will take over all of the powers exercised by the county but will have only 42 councillors. That will create problems. Secondly, there is deep concern about the fact that elections will be held only every four years. Given that Hull has annual elections for one third of its members, there is real pressure south of the river for the unitary authorities also to have such annual elections.
My next point relates to planning. The authorities both north and south of the river have co-operated in terms of structural planning, land use and estuarial development. However, the towns that skirt the river now seem to be being told, "Turn your back on the river and face south towards Lincolnshire county", and those north of the river are being told to face north towards Yorkshire. That will create some planning problems in the estuarial area. I heard what the Minister said about co-operation and I am certain that there will be continued co-operation within the Humber Forum, but, like the town, I am a little concerned about looking towards the county in terms of planning matters. I wonder whether the Minister can say something about that.
My final point relates to regional government, to which my noble friend Lady Farrington referred. Although we are concerned about the undemocratic nature of regional government, given that we are where we are, the boroughs to which I have referred do not
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