Tory council becomes first to write to Pickles protesting against cuts


by Chaminda Jayanetti    
9:05 am - September 10th 2010

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Conservative-run Derby City Council has found itself lobbying against the Tory-led national government’s spending cuts.

At the end of July, a council vote forced Conservative council leader Harvey Jennings to write to communities secretary Eric Pickles in protest at the impact of government funding cuts on Derby.

On Wednesday night, the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems all voted to lobby education secretary Michael Gove over his decision to axe most of the city’s schoolbuilding programme, which was weeks away from signing contracts when he pulled the plug.

The Conservatives run as a minority administration, with the Lib Dems not part of a coalition but allowing them to govern.

In late July the Labour group moved an amendment to approve the council’s budget strategy ‘but to actively lobby against the Government’s proposed 25-30% cuts in grant’ (see page 14 here). Conservatives voted against it, but with a few Tory councillors absent and the Lib Dems abstaining, the amendment was carried.

As a result, Cllr Jennings had to write to Pickles in his capacity as council leader, warning about the impact the cuts would have on Derby. The full letter is here.

It states:

A key message I would like to get across is how the funding cuts will not affect all authorities to the same extent. Highly geared, deprived authorities such as Derby are particularly vulnerable to both Specific and Formula Grant cuts and I would urge you to give this serious consideration before any decisions are made on funding share in the comprehensive spending announcement.

…it would be deeply regrettable if we had to cut our capital programme at a time in which we have a strong desire to create jobs for local people.

What’s this? A Conservative council leader backing public spending as a means of creating jobs for local people? Why yes, yes it is!

The letter concludes by saying they urge that further cuts are “are kept to a minimum” during the Spending Review.

No word yet on whether Pickles has replied.

[Derbyshire County Council was the target of a 150-strong protest yesterday over plans to increase adult care charges, led by Unison and service users who forced the issue into the council chamber]

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About the author
Chaminda is an occasional contributor. He writes at the A Thousand Cuts blog and Twitter account.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Fight the cuts ,Local Government


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Reader comments


So a council leader is doing his job and implementing the will of the council as a whole? As you yourself admit, the majority of seats on the council are not held by Conservatives, so this is not actually a Conservative council but No Overall Control anyway.

That said, why should we be surprised if an actual Conserative council wrote such a letter? Their job is not to reflect the party line, but the interests and desires of their constituents, and therefore any loss of central money is likely to cause protest.

The interesting question would be why most of the councils standing to lose from the ending of the school building programme are either Labour controlled or marginal anyway, considering that for the last few years the majority of English councils have been Conservative controlled. But why ask a question which might either suggest poor management by councils or deliberate political use of money (I would go for the former) when you can try to score cheap political points?

‘What’s this? A Conservative council leader backing public spending as a means of creating jobs for local people? Why yes, yes it is!’

It’s no different from Boris’s position. Most politicians are happy with cuts in principle – so long as it doesn’t effect their chances of being re-elected. Its the one redeeming feature of the FPTP system.

@1 – The reason most of the the councils losing out from the scrapping of BSF are Labour-run (assuming that’s the case) is simply because the national BSF programme was focused on more deprived areas first. Better off areas were scheduled for later waves of the national scheme. So council competence didn’t come into it – certainly not as a rule, anyway

I’m surprised a council leader can be forced by a vote of a hung council to write pointless letters to ministers. This isn’t the student union where you go around ‘mandating’ officers to write letters (at my students union it was usually, enormously egotistically, to Blair).

If I’d have been the council leader I’d have told the opposition leader where he could shove his letter.

It’d be interesting to see how (or if) Eric Pickles responded. I’ve sent Derby City Council a Freedom of Information request to find out:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/response_to_harvey_jennings_lett


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