LETTERS True Toryism
Sir: Over the past years we have grown accustomed to the not infrequent appear- ance of hostile references to Peter Wal- ker's reorganisation of local government in 1972-4 that bear little relationship to the facts but the anonymous author of the profile (The old manipulator', 15 April) goes far further than befits a writer in a journal of repute.
The statement 'he rejected the less destructive Redcliffe-Maud report' is breathtaking in its contrast with reality. Did your author read that report? Or the wide press coverage of it? 'Less destruc- tive'? A report which recommended the abolition of every county, every borough, every urban district, every rural district, in the land. A report with certain similarities to the radical changes imposed in East Germany under the Communists designed to remove all vestige of traditional com- munity structures. A report which prop- osed we should be subject to 'unitary authorities' (with the advantage to Whitehall that the leaders of such could all be gathered in one room and have their heads knocked together).
I was the leader of a large district council during that period and like others was impressed with the pains that Peter Walker (so unlike others of ministerial rank) took to assess the desires and experience of those active in local government and the real situation on the ground. He, with the support of Edward Heath, saved local government from the effective abolition that Harold Wilson promised with the implementation of Redcliffe-Maud. Some boundary changes took place, yes (others that were justified were withdrawn). A few counties merged. The vast majority remain and the essential pattern of local govern- ment on a two-tier basis of county and district remained. Some of us would have preferred the minor updating and adjust- ment that the earlier commission was arranging but all the media were pushing for the radical wishes of the 'great and good' and so mild a reform was not practical. As it is, faithful to the true Toryism that he still valiantly champions, Peter Walker preserved the essence of the traditional pattern of local government and deserves the nation's thanks.
Robert F. J. Parsons
Levington, 104 London Road, Camberley, Surrey