I wish now to make a few observations as regards the amount of money provided for local authorities. As a member of a county council, I would naturally be personally concerned that we would recive sufficient money for our essential works on housing, sanitary services and roads. I have already adverted to and protested against the trend in housing financing which I mentioned earlier, namely, that there has been a switch from the provision of local authority houses, as such, towards private housing. I regret that a decreasing interest has been paid to the provision of local authority housing because that has to provide shelter for the very poor and the weakest sections of our community who are absolutely unable to provide anything from their own resources. A similar trend is obvious in relation to water supplies. In my constituency, we had works drawn up to the value of £2½ million. We paid £8,000 to architects for drawing-up these schemes.
Now we are virtually to switch from these regional schemes to group schemes. I have no objection to group schemes. Per household, the charges tend to be lower. However, I feel this is forced upon us because central Government want to cut down on the amount of money they are providing to local authorities. I think the Taoiseach should, in his reply, give us some reason why local authority subventions are being cheesepared so much, particularly in view of the fact that the amount of money coming into the Taoiseach's exchequer is quite good. Compare, for example, the first eight months of this year with the first eight months of last year. Revenue, as they describe it, is excessively buoyant. Total receipts to the Exchequer from 1st April, 1968, to 6th December, 1968 —eight months—were £211.8 million whereas, for the corresponding period this year, the figure has advanced to £258.3 million. This is a jump of nearly £50 million. It is a tremendous jump in a revenue increase. On the face of that, we are being unfairly treated at local authority level by the central Government authority.
I recognise—and the argument is always put up here in the House— that the amount of money the central Government are giving to local government is increasing proportionately year by year but, against that, let me point out that the case is being improperly made. Some of the money allegedly given back to local government is the agricultural rebate. That is not given back to local government. We do not get one penny of that to spend as local authorities. It is a hand-out to the local farmers. I do not begrudge it to them. It amounts to about £17 million per year, speaking from memory.
We must also consider the road fund. I think £12 million is the amount collected by local county councils for taxes on cars. In the 1966 Finance Bill local taxation was increased by about 20 per cent and it was decided at that time throught the office of the Minister for Finance that that increase would go straight to revenue and not find its way into the road fund at all. For years here there was always a row if the road fund was raided but now it is being done legally, if not legitimately, and this 20 per cent is scooped off before it finds its way into the road fund.
If you add the amount of money collected on car taxes, plus customs and excise on petrol, from car parks and cars coming in here, it amounts to about £50 million a year. We should be entitled at local level to receive the full amount from the road fund in view of the tremendous amount of money the Government are getting through cars and from car users. In general, with a very buoyant revenue at the moment the Government are being unduly penurious with the local authorities this year.
Someone mentioned the balance of payments at Question Time. I have some of the recent figures here. Someone asked was our balance of payments deficit ever as big as it is now, and, of course, it was not. In 1967, we had a surplus of £15 million. In 1968, we had a deficit of £20 million. This year we will have a deficit possibly of £60 million, and in 1970 the projection is possibly another £60 million. Our external reserves have gone down somewhat and the nature of our external reserves has been altered. We switched from sterling to gold at one time, and then we switched from gold to the International Monetary Fund, and lately we are selling our gold and buying dollars. Whatever switching we did, we did not do it in time. We lost about £8 million when devaluation took place because we had left too much of our money in sterling fund. Our financial authorities in the Department of Finance or the Central Bank were caught there when we lost approximately £8 million by not making that transfer in time.
I was dealing with the trading figures which the Minister for Finance was at such pains to play down. I had just begun to mention them before Question Time. I will give the figures again for the record because I am old-fashioned enough to think that trading figures are still important. In 1968, our exports were £329.3 million and our imports were £484.4 million, an import excess of £155.1 million. In 1969, our exports were £366 million. That showed an increase of £36.8 million. Our imports were £584.8 million showing an increase of 100.4 million. That meant that our import excess was £218.8 million. By any standards that, taken in conjunction with the static of diminishing external reserves and a projected balance of payments increase of £60 million, is a serious situation. No playing around with figures or other statistical data can alter the serious import of those returns.
To use a common or garden expression, I feel that we are moving into the red. We have mounting rates, our balance of payments is going against us, the cost of living is rising rapidly and we have, therefore, what is called inflation. We have increased industrial unrest. We have the worst record in Europe in industrial employment relations and hours lost through industrial unrest. We have social discontent. We have an increasing disparity of income between the higher and the lower sections of the population. We have evolving here a two-or three-tier society. Our emigration and unemployment problem stands unresolved and we have increasing pressure from the farming community.
That is not a happy pre-Christmas picture. It is my duty here to stimulate the already euphoric temperament of the Fianna Fáil Party. I want to quote now from the booklet from which I have already quoted, the Economic and Social Research Institute Quarterly Economic Commentary, September, 1969. At page 19 it is stated:
Even at this stage, genuine moderation in income demands by all sectors of the community would undoubtedly help to solve this dilemma. A slower growth in money incomes than that assumed here would, in the present inflationary circumstances, probably result in equally rapid growth in real incomes, while perhaps averting the very genuine danger of a serious interruption in economic growth which is implicit in any directly restrictive action which the authorities might feel obliged to take.
In the face of that and other remarks in this publication and other publications, what advice can one presume to offer to the Government at this stage? I will make two suggestions. My first suggestion is that the Government should take the advice we have given them over a long period. They should make some effort to introduce price control. They should in some way establish a prices and incomes policy if we are to have stability in the value of money, stability in our society as well as good industrial relations. The Government are making no attempt to do this. My second suggestion is that they should have a more effective monetary credit control policy. Admittedly, the Central Bank have been trying to do this but not too effectively and they have failed to control the private sector and they have failed to control the Government. Of course, the final responsibility for our economic position lies with the Government. They have been the greatest offenders and it is difficult to look towards the future with equanimity when you have a Government which raises all sorts of objections, who will not even consider an incomes and prices policy and when you have a Minister for Finance who can only speak of wage control and will not introduce these kinds of scales on a broad front, the only type of front that will be acceptable in a board society. I can recall when this question of monetary credit control was first mentioned here by us. It was regarded by then then Deputy Seán Lemass as being a daft notion. The Central Bank has a very important function in this and it is becoming increasingly accepted that as well as the economic factors monetary credit control is an important factor in planning and fashioning a progressive economy.