Mr Walker lays guidelines on local reforms
From Frank Roberts, Local Government Correspondent Newcastle upon Tyne, March 12
While Conservatives at the party's national conference on local government today debated housing and education, Mr. Walker, Secretary of State for the Environment, was busy reinforcing Government policies for the North.
He met industrialists and trade unionists and spoke of the scope for fresh employment.
Tomorrow Mr. Walker is to speak to the party conference on local government reform and he had a comment today on the last-ditch fight of the county boroughs.
Of Southend, which has said it may withdraw party support from his Under-Secretary, Mr. Paul Channon. M.P. for Southend, West, Mr. Walker said: “There will always be a Puddlecombe. You will always find an alderman somewhere to say that change means the end of everything.”
Mr. Walker also spoke of the harassment and illegal eviction of tenants. He did not rule out, if time permitted, a short separate Bill to increase the penalties without waiting for later housing legislation.
The party's discussion on education was opened by Dr. Kathleen Ollerenshaw.
Before Mrs. Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education and Science, summed up, there was another popular feminine contribution from Mrs. B. Bolam, a Conservative councillor at Jarrow and a schoolteacher. Mrs. Bolam, who is employed by the Labour-controlled Durham County Council, lost half a day's pay for being away from the classroom
She attacked the system of appointing school managing bodies which let local authorities act unreasonably over teaching appointments. As an example, she herself was regarded as intelligent enough to sit on a body appointing a kitchen maid but not on one appointing a headmaster.
She asked for a place on these bodies for people like a doctor, housewife or librarian to show their abilities in managing schools.
On primary [sic] education Mrs. Thatcher said that raising the school age in 1972–73 was supported by new figures which showed that 43 per cent of children leaving school went without either the General Certificate of Education or the Certificate of Secondary Education.
At 15 the percentage leaving without either certificate was 91, at 16 it was seven, and at 17 only 1 per cent. Employers liked their young workers to have a qualification.
In her remarks on comprehensive and other secondary schools, Mrs. Thatcher reminded the conference that “circulars do not change the law” . Before a council could change the character of a school, people had the right to object or comment under the 1944 Act.