Tag: Jon Ashworth

When the Right don’t know what their right hand is doing: more embarrassment for the PM regarding the impact of austerity cuts on Tory councils

gret deceitDavid Cameron is under investigation for an alleged breach of the ministerial code, (despite the Tories’ recent edit of it.) He’s been accused of not separating his constituency role with his cabinet role, showing his own constituency preferential treatment regarding Tory austerity cuts.

The Labour Party wrote to the Cabinet Secretary to request a ruling on whether the prime minister broke the code of ethics and conduct after inviting Tory councillors into Downing Street for a private meeting to discuss Tory cuts to frontline services in his Witney constituency.

The ministerial code prevents ministers from using government facilities for party or constituency activities, and this is why Labour has written to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, asking for a ruling. 

Leaked letters revealed that Cameron became embroiled in an embarrassing row with Oxfordshire County Council, complaining about the impact of “counter-productive” cuts to essential services in his constituency and offered help from Downing Street advisers. 

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Ashworth, told the Today programme: “What I am concerned about is that the Prime Minister seems to be conflating his ministerial role with his role as the member of parliament for Witney.” 

The Prime Minister had protested to the council: “I was disappointed at the long list of suggestions floated – to make significant cuts to frontline services – from elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums. 

“This is in addition to the unwelcome and counter-productive proposals to close children’s centres across the county. I would have hoped that Oxfordshire would instead be following the best practice of Conservative councils from across the country in making back-office savings and protecting the front line.”

He invited Ian Hudspeth, the Oxfordshire county council leader, to Downing Street to discuss the county’s financial situation.

The council leader, who reminded Mr Cameron that he “worked hard to assist you in achieving a Conservative majority”, responded that government funding had almost halved since 2010 and that the council had taken as much out of the back office as possible.

Now another Tory council has written to the PM and to the chancellor, complaining bitterly about the Conservative austerity cuts.

The Conservative leader of Somerset County Council, John Osman, has said in his two letters that it was with “profound sadness” he was writing to object to the proposed reductions to local government budgets:

“The continuing impacts of austerity will affect Somerset County Council’s ability to deliver key services such as:

Children’s social care
Adults social care
Learning disabilities
Special Educational Needs Students
Concessionary fares travel”

He also said in both letters that the public would not “accept a 30 per cent reduction in NHS or education funding” and “Therefore we should not have to accept these damaging reductions to these key services.”

It’s quite remarkable that Conservative councillors don’t seem to grasp what austerity – which is a prop for Conservative small state ideology – actually means to public services and people. They seem to think that the cuts only ought to apply to Labour councils, who already face disproportionately larger cuts to their budgets than Tory councils, in some of the UK’s most deprived areas.

Local authorities controlled by Labour in the north have been the  hardest hit by central government cuts over the past five years, whilst Conservative town halls escaped the lightest, a study by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) found.