Today's news that leading Lib Dem councillors have published an open letter complaining about spending cuts and the bluster of Eric Pickles in the DCLG is not really surprising. Local government is always first in the firing line and the especially deep cuts it is facing was always bound to cause angst among Lib Dem councillors - most of whom are motivated by providing good quality services - particularly for those most in need. So public disquiet from this source was always likely.
It has also been clear for some time that Pickles is the least competent cabinet minister and his 'blunt' speaking style getting in the way of sensible relations with local government - and therefore harming the decentralisation agenda that everyone involved in local politics is desperate to see delivered.
But, but... the way in which the letter was phrased made it easy for Labour (and their friends in the BBC) to simply (and lazily) report it as support for the Balls line of 'too far, too fast' - which is sadly in danger of taking hold as the accepted view.
The line is of course balls - the cuts are about the minimum needed to start to restore the public finances after 13 years of Labour pillage. By 2015 the government will owe more than it does today - but the rate of increase will have slowed. Public spending will be about the same level as it was after 10 years of Balls and Brown - but effective spending will be less because debt interest payments will be much higher. This is why getting control of spending is so important.
I wish instead of parroting Balls the councillors had chosen to simply focus on the case for hurrying up reforms that will give local government the freedom to raise revenue in new and different ways.
The coalition and the Lib Dems in particular cannot allow Labour to win the argument about the cuts. These cuts are Labour's cuts - manufactured in no.11 under the direction of Balls and Miliband. Every local authority job lost, every library closure and every vulnerable person left behind is a consequence of Labour's 13 years of hubris and incompetence.
Lib Dem councillors should not be allowed by the government to go into May's election taking the flak for Labour's cuts. The coalition must do far better in apportioning the blame for the financial crisis the country faces - otherwise there will be more embarrassing open letters for the party to deal with and more chance for Labours lies on the deficit to be believed.