Labour councils cutting front line services and then blaming the Government is becoming a familiar pattern. But Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, offers one of the most brazen examples. Refuse collection will become fortnightly. Street cleaning is being cut. Libraries are being closed – without even giving volunteers the opportunity to keep them going. Voluntary sector grants are being cut by 22%. So often Labour sneer at the Big Society without even giving it a chance.
This is in the context of a bloated council where waste is endemic. The Daily Mail notes some examples including the Chief Executive being on £230,000 a year. I won't repeat all the examples I mentioned last month.
We can also now examine the Council procurement spending for December and the large sums paiid for such items as hospitality, agency staff, taxis, training, advertising, printing and consultants. Among the payments is one to the Crazy Hog which just about sums up the Council's attitude to spending other people's money.
Not that Manchester have embraced transparency with great enthusiasm. For instance the Chief Executives Department lists a few payments to Creative Concern, one for £2,022.75 and another for £1,216 where we are not told what it is for beyond "payments to sub-contractors." Or another time it is £4,375 as "other professional fee." Only by doing a Google search do we discver they are an "ethical communications agency."
Some feel that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and the Local Government Minister Grant Shapps should be more positive about local government. There is a lot to praise including a lot of councils saving the money required without cutting services. Often the media regard praise for Town Halls from Eric and Grant and less exciting than a good old ding dong. But when you get the type of cynicism and abdication of responsibility in Manchester then it is right for Ministers to get angry and to take to the airwaves.