The text of Mr Major’s letter to the press on 23rd October 1977.
MR JOHN MAJOR:
Sir – Old sins, it is said, cast long shadows, and certainly the economic sins of central government between 1974-1976 are now leading to a bleak future for Cambridgeshire as your front page report of October 6th illustrates (Teachers muster to fight cuts – axe hovers over 400 jobs).
As a parent whose children will be educated in Cambridgeshire, I am extremely concerned at cuts in education expenditure, but I do appreciate that the county council cannot print money and that unpopular decisions must follow the government’s arbitrary reduction of £10 million in the rate support grant; these are now becoming apparent and it is unfortunate that the county council must bear the odium for the government’s policy.
Of course, it is true that spending cuts were necessary nationally to curb the inflation engendered through past extravagance, but the burden would be more acceptable were it more fairly spread.
Unfortunately, however, the cuts in rate support grant are not distributed equitably; this, Newcastle with a falling population receives 71 per cent of its expenditure from the government whilst Cambridgeshire with an expanding population receives merely 53%. The reason for this curious distribution may be left to individual judgment (although there is little doubt in my mind) but what is undoubted is that it is grotesquely unfair when related to past government policy and priorities concerning the expansion of Huntingdon and Peterborough.
Central government actively encouraged expanding areas in satellite counties around London to accept overspill population as a contribution to the solution of the capital’s severe housing and social problems. Cambridgeshire willingly accepted this task and, in so doing, significantly assisted London but not without local cost: thus the expanding population adversely affected the ratio of pupils to teachers; of jobs to workers; of patients to doctors, dentists and hospital beds; it changed the environment of many villages; it expanded the natural size of population centres beyond what was anticipated and created a demand for an enhanced infrastructure at very considerable expense.
These are critically serious problems created because Cambridgeshire was prepared – rightly – to help central government to ameliorate the deprivation of inner London; we can now see that the government’s gratitude is such that they savagely cut the county’s income, leaving Cambridgeshire without the resources to cope with the problem they have absorbed at the government’s behest. Hence we must now suffer education cuts and probably much else as the months progress.
I believe that unless the rate support grant cuts are restored in future years, the prospect for Cambridgeshire is that she will become a Cinderella county with either soaring rate demands or shrinking standards across the whole range of county council services – or both.
These are unpalatable alternatives and, if they are to come about, it is to be hoped that the blame will be apportioned more fairly by the public than was the rate support grant by the government.
PPC for Huntingdonshire, The Views, Huntingdon