Mark Wallace, Senior Account Manager at Portland Communications and author of the Crash Bang Wallace blog, reports from his own borough
A fortnight ago, I wrote about the shameless tactics of councils who refuse to take responsibility for managing their budgets, and instead place the blame for any painful cuts they might implement on the Government.
A good example recently emerged in the form of Steve Reed, the leader of Lambeth Council (which happens to be my own local authority). It should be noted that Cllr Reed has form for underhand tactics, having apparently instructed his own council officers to intercept the emails of one of his own party’s councillors.
On Thursday he lamented on Twitter:
Tears at council cabinet discussion this morning on the detail of the ConDem cuts. What they are doing to vulnerable people is criminal
This is a good example of the tactics I was talking about in my previous article. Of course politicians should be concerned about potential suffering – but is Cllr Reed really doing his best to minimise the harm.
Lambeth is apparently facing £40 million in spending cuts in the coming year. That’s a lot of money, but Cllr Reed is naturally unlikely to admit that the cuts are necessary because of his own party’s mismanagement of the public finances.
Worse, if he thinks the financial mountain the council has to climb is down to the “ConDems” then he has apparently been paying a woeful amount of attention to his own administration’s management (or rather mismanagement) of Lambeth’s affairs.
This financial year alone, his administration has overseen around £8 million of overspends.
If Cllr Reed is really so keen to protect the vulnerable, then why did his authority spend the following?
- £1.4 million on publicity, including a whopping £677,000 on recruitment advertising alone. That also includes the utterly brassnecked propaganda newspaper “Lambeth Life”.
- £50 a time to drug dealers to canvas their opinions for a council survey.
- Unknown amounts on abuse of the parking fine and disability badge system by corrupt staff.
- £270,000 on remuneration for Chief Executive Derrick Anderson, and millions more on 505 managers over £50,000 a year (a 25% increase in their numbers in one year).
The great irony is that Cllr Reed has made great play of his vision for Lambeth to become the “John Lewis Council” – with greater mutualisation in the organisation.
He is happy to boast on one hand that he is taking responsibility for more localised decisions, taking advantage of the new liberty being offered to councils by Eric Pickles, but he still persists in trying to blame the Government for the impact of his decisions. There is a word for such behaviour – hypocrisy.