Monday, 16 November 2015

Hypocrisy ... Cameron complains about council cuts

Two months ago in the Cornish Guardian, I strongly expressed my view that the blame for cuts being implemented by Cornwall Council (and other local authorities) should be placed squarely at the door of central government.

Here in Cornwall, recent headlines have focussed on plans to shift council leisure centres to the private sector, and pass one-stop shops and libraries to parish councils and community groups – both of which I do not support.

But I do have enormous sympathy for the councillors on the Cabinet who have brought forward these proposals – which they themselves would prefer not to have to implement – because such proposals are a direct consequence of central government’s deep cuts.

What is more, Government ministers have had the nerve to criticise cash-strapped councils for retreating from some frontline services.

It has now transpired that the Prime Minister – who represents an Oxfordshire constituency – recently wrote a private letter to Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, to complain about local cuts.

David Cameron’s letter stated that he was “disappointed at the long list” of suggested cuts to frontline services which included “elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums.” He also condemned the “unwelcome and counter-productive proposals to close children’s centres across the county.”

Cameron’s letter told the council leader that he should be making “back-office savings” and unbelievably claimed that “spending had increased in the authority in recent years.”

It was certainly heartening to see the robust response of the true-blue Mr Hudspeth, who pointed out government grants had actually been cut by £72m or 37%.

It almost unbelievable that David Cameron can write such ill-informed letters, containing inaccurate information. It clearly shows that he does not understand the impact of his Government.

One journalist (George Monbiot) put it better than I might:

“David Cameron hasn’t the faintest idea how deep his cuts go. This letter proves it … have you ever wondered how the Prime Minister sleeps at night? How can he live with himself after imposing such gratuitous pain upon the people of this nation? Well now, it seems, you have your answer: he appears to be blissfully unaware of the impact of his own policies.”

It now remains to be seen whether Cornwall’s six Tory MPs will be quick to use this “revelation” to put pressure on the Prime Minister and Chancellor to reverse cuts to local government and Cornwall Council, in particular.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

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