As part of our council tax freezing budget amendment this year we suggested that Nottingham City Council's Labour cabinet consider reducing the £1.5m of tax payer's money spent on Marketing and Communications activity annually. Savings of around £600,000 would have made a freeze possible, but the tax freezing amendment was, as it is annually, rejected unanimously by Nottingham's Labour councillors, who number 49 out of 55.
This is not surprising for a couple of reasons: Firstly, Nottingham Labour is addicted to raising taxes, in fact even since the freeze grant became available we've seen an increase of £81.68 for a Band D property.
Secondly, if Nottingham City Council's Marketing budget was cut back, where would the funding to publicise such political campaigns as the current 'No Bedroom Tax' e-petition the authority's website is currently promoting from its homepage? If that isn't a questionable enough use of public money in itself, bare in mind that we have two council seats to be contested at by-elections on April 4th! No alternative view is expressed in these articles, no opinion of the Conservative group has been sought, and Labour's euphemistic 'Bedroom Tax' phrase has been repeated as often as possible. Whatever your views on these particular benefit changes are, this cannot be an acceptable way for a local authority to conduct itself.
Labour Nottingham have been notoriously gung-ho with regards to using council resources to promote their own political agenda. Only last month Conservative Home featured a Nottingham City taxpayer funded anti-Government poster to illustrate an article on taxpayer funded propaganda. That poster was also sent into every home in the city on the back of the council's free newspaper, something we as a group have called for a halt to annually, and while we have seen a decrease in frequency, the authority is still spending £165,000 a year on this.
There are further examples:
- Last year similar posters campaigning against the introduction of an elected mayor for Nottingham ahead of the referendum were produced by the Council.
- In 2009 the District Auditor described publicity and banners in the city as legally 'borderline'.
- The local press got hold of documents that suggested the Labour 2007 local election campaign had been coordinated with Nottingham City Council's then Director of Communications and a taxpayer funded £870-a-day consultant.
- The District Auditor had already expressed concerns about £20,000 spent on promotional campaign materials ahead of the 2007 campaign, considering them to be of "questionable lawfulness" and expressing 'strikingly similar' content also found in local Labour party publicity
The contempt for public money and democracy that Nottingham Labour show is astounding, and illustrates exactly why the government needs to put the Local Authority Publicity Code on a statutory basis to ensure fair political debate and to ensure that local government spends its money on frontline services and providing support to those who need it, not on party political broadcasts on behalf of the Labour Party.