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1961 May 3 We
Margaret Thatcher

Party Political Broadcast (Local Government)

Document type:public statement
Document kind:TV Broadcast
Venue:-
Source:Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:The PPB - MT speaking alongside Sir Donald Kaberry - was broadcast at 2130. It was pre-recorded.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:1956
Themes:Local Elections, Local government, Media

Announcer

BBC Television, nine thirty.

There now follows a Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

(Sound of Crowd Cheering)

Kaberry

Yes, itÕs Wembley, and on Saturday, itÕll be Spurs and Leicester City for the F.A.Cup. And the following Saturday, itÕll be Wigan and St. HelenÕs battling out who gets the Rugby League Challenge Cup. Two different games, but the same yardstick for success. Good intentions donÕt really count, itÕs the success that matters. ItÕs goals in one case, and points in the other. And for sheer loyalty and devotion, itÕs a wonderful thing to see a crowd of nearly a hundred thousand people at a game like this, demonstrating their pride in their own team, pride in their home town, which the team represents. But do they show the same pride in the home town when it comes to the question of voting at local government elections? Well, letÕs look at the record. Last year, if we take this crowd, less than a half took the trouble to go and vote at the local Government elections, in fact in some cases, it was down to a third, and some as far as a quarter. But letÕs leave it at the—roughly the halfway mark, the national average of forty per cent. Well, youÕd think that people would take a bit more interest in the money which is spent. ItÕs their money, and itÕs millions of it.

I donÕt think youÕre content to part with your money without knowing whoÕs going to spend it and what theyÕre going to do with it. And yet you know last year, millions—millions and millions of people, in fact there were twelve and a half millions in all, just didnÕt take the trouble to go and vote. Now I know that there are different problems in every town, in every district, thatÕs why the Conservatives say "Leave these things to be dealt with by the local people." They know best, it isnÕt a matter of a gentleman in Whitehall knowing best, Town Hall and Whitehall are partners, equal partners, not one dominant above the other, but working in complete accord with each other in order to get best value for all the money spent. All the money spent—well, do you know, last year, the local authorities together in England and Wales, spent eighteen hundred million pounds. ItÕs a vast sum of money, but perhaps I could illustrate it in this way.

If you took eighteen hundred million pounds in five pound notes, and spread it out over the whole of the playing area of Wembley, well then youÕd get piles sixty deep. Sixty deep in fivers—thatÕs a good bit of money for our footballers to kick about. But perhaps you would allow me to take one town as an example of the amount which a local authority spends this year. I hope youÕll forgive me if I take my own town of Leeds. I know a bit about it, itÕs a town of half a million people, I was on its Council when I was twenty-three, and I still get a rate demand for my own house in my own constituency, in the town.

Now next—this year, this year, Leeds, under a Socialist Council, proposes to spend £24,247,000. Now thatÕs a lot of money too. IÕd like to have shown it to you in pound notes, but we[fo 1] couldnÕt get them all in the studio. So weÕve represented what twenty-four million, two hundred and forty seven thousand pounds would look like if it was stacked in piles of five pound notes. And here it is, this is what twenty-four million, two hundred and forty-seven thousand pounds would look like, if it was piled up in various departments which are spending it, in five pound notes. TheyÕre not real five pound notes, theyÕre television issue—we didnÕt want to have any security problems going on whilst we were having this demonstration.

But here it is—twenty-four million, two hundred and forty-seven thousand pounds. Now, letÕs have a look how some of it is going to be spent. LetÕs take this pile first. IÕm about six foot four and a half, or a bit more, and I should say this pile goes up, about eight feet and it comes all this way back. Well, that represents in five pound notes, £9,357,000 thatÕs what the Education Department in Leeds is going to spend this year. Schools, school building, teachersÕ salaries, school meals, school milk, all very desirable expenditure. Here, the Housing Revenue account. Three million six hundred thousand pounds, of course they get rents and Government grants towards it. But it still leaves rate payers £275,000 to find. The Police Force, the Watch Committee will want a million and a half to spend this year; and here we come to what I would say was my old love, the Cleansing Department of Leeds. I used to be its Chairman before the war, but this year, theyÕre going to spend £949,000—thatÕs a good deal more brass that theyÕre spending this year than when I was Chairman. And hereÕs the Highways—£959,000 to keep the highways lighted, the street lighting department want to spend £392,000. Then in case thereÕs a fire, the Fire Service are proposing to spend £314,000. Most desirable department here, care of children, are going to spend £405,000. Then there are all the miscellaneous committees which add up to many more millions. Well, you may say that the examples of Leeds donÕt apply to your town. And I entirely agree: if you live in Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester, or some other large city, the amounts will be bigger. On the other hand if youÕre in a smaller town, say Exeter, or Ipswich, or Derby or any other town of that size, the amounts will be less.

But I think youÕll find the proportions will be about the same. Now IÕm not saying be afraid of looking at large figures. But what I am saying is that here there is scope for great economy and thereÕs scope for waste. And you know, economy is hardly the hall mark of the Socialist Council. And of course there hasnÕt always been that happy association between a Socialist Council and the ratepayers. Socialist Councils have sometimes tried to work in the dark. Do you remember what Mr. Gaitskell had to say, when he was finding excuses as to why the Socialists had lost the last General Election? Let me remind you what he said: "Another handicap IÕm afraid, was the reputation acquired by certain Labour local Councils. Criticisms are too widespread to be ignored, whether it be the attitude to Council House tenants, or of excessively rigid standing orders, or more generally, of apparently arbitrary and intolerant behaviour."

Those are Mr. GaitskellÕs words, not mine. "Of arbitrary and intolerant behaviour" by some Labour local Councils. And do you remember the occasion when some Labour Councils tried to keep out the Press? Well, the Conservatives werenÕt standing for that very long. And one of my colleagues, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, the Member of Parliament for Finchley, had scarcely been in the House a few months before she presented a Bill which is now an Act of Parliament, to deal with this particular problem. But let Mrs. Thatcher tell you about it herself.[fo 2]

Thatcher

I wanted to make sure that we could find out what is going on in our local Councils. Most of us canÕt get to Council meetings ourselves, and we have to rely on the local press for our information. Now many Councils have allowed both public and press into their Council meetings and their main committees. Others havenÕt and in some cases, the Council meetings become a complete farce. Various dodges have been used but the effect of them all has been the same. The interesting points have all been thrashed out in committee, and the main Council itself has merely been used as a rubber stamp to approve the course of action recommended by the Committee. The whole process was over in a few minutes and the end of it, no one was the wiser as to what had been decided, let alone why. Even the reporters were not allowed to see the documents which would have told them what was under discussion.

The result has been that information has been rationed. We have been told not what weÕre entitled to know, but what our local rulers thought it was good for us to know. I believe this is wrong, utterly wrong, and thatÕs why I introduced an Act of Parliament to try to remedy the worst of the abuse.

Now the Act comes into effect on the 1st of June this year, and itÕs got two main points. The first is that Councils shall not merely be allowed to resolve themselves into committee because they want to pass something on the quiet. They must meet in public and in the presence of the Press. And the second point is that reporters shall be allowed to demand the agenda and enough particulars of the items under discussion to let them do their job of reporting properly.

All this is so that you and I can get at the information of what our local Council is doing. Now I wonder how much you know about your own local CouncilÕs actions? Do you know for example, whether it operates a differential rent scheme? You should, because this affects the amount of rates you pay. Perhaps you want to buy a house, do you know whether your local Council is one which will advance up to a hundred per cent on mortgage? Perhaps you have children who will shortly be taking the ll-plus examination. Do you know how many grammar schools your local Education Authority provides? This may decide your childÕs whole future. One thing is certain, you have to foot the bill, however little you know about what your local council does.

Very soon I hope youÕll be able to find out more, and find out easily.

Kaberry

And of course those are all very important points indeed. Now may I just underline one or two points about housing and slum clearance. ItÕs now estimated that one family in four is living in a house built since the war. Since the Conservative drive for slum clearance started, over 300,000 slums have been swept away, and over a million people have been rehoused into decent living accommodation. ItÕs hoped that by the end of 1965, over half the local authorities in this country will have swept away all the insanitary buildings in their areas.

Three other points, the Government urges priority for old peoplesÕ houses. They are increasing the scope of the improvement grants, and finally, I remind you, that since 1951, when the Conservatives came into office, nationally, over a million houses have been built for home ownership. Well, now, next week itÕs your chance, itÕs your chance, and I hope youÕll take it, to go and vote for a candidate who supports the Conservative faith and the Conservative philosophy. I want you to get the best value for the[fo 3] money youÕve spent, and I know you want to get the most competent people you can on to your Council. And when you go to vote as I hope you will do, take people with you, youÕll show enthusiasm, donÕt want you to be on a lonely mission like this—slow—but take someone with you, go early, give a helping hand to those who want it, and by your enthusiasm, encourage others constantly to keep voting—urge them to keep a Conservative Government, to keep a Conservative Council in office or put out a Socialist Council from office.

Now let me give you the fixture list for next week. On Tuesday, in Scotland, theyÕll be voting in the County Councils and District Councils. On Thursday, in England and Wales weÕll voting in the Boroughs and County Boroughs. And throughout the whole week, thereÕll be polling going on in the Rural and Urban Councils Elections.

Now in the past two years in some of our larger towns in England and Wales, the Conservatives have made great gains. This is the time when they want to get all the resources they can, from all those from all those who believe that the Conservatives should recapture those Councils from the Socialists, and they want to have everyone coming out and letÕs go back to the picture I stopped at the beginning, and not be content with the 48%; national average, but bring out more and more and more, bring all the people out so that when, next week, the Conservatives make their third try to get the Councils back from the Socialists, with your efforts, theyÕll score the winning goal. Give them the victory they want to have next week.

Announcer

That Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the Conservative and Unionist Party, with Sir Donald Kaberry, M.P. and Mrs. Margaret Thatcher M.P., was recorded.