Labour leader Ed Miliband launched his party’s local election campaign today saying he was ‘proud’ of the way Labour councils' had reacted to the cuts and promoting ‘good’ Labour councillors who were making difficult decisions.
This can only be described as an unusual take on the reality, but sadly very much in line with their view that spending cuts are actually avoidable.
So how does this view shape up to the reality? In Labour’s flagship Southwark – snatched by a whisker on general election day from the Lib Dems – they recently passed their budget, cutting (among others) - five play centres, 12 lollipop ladies, old peoples’ lunch clubs, the mobile and housebound library services and old peoples day centres. All valued front line services to the vulnerable. And yet they managed to add £5 million to its healthy (Lib Dem inherited) £86 million reserves.
I can’t think of a clearer example of politically motivated cuts designed to scare the elderly and vulnerable while squirreling away vast sums for pre election bribes.
But what about those ‘good’ Labour councillors that Mili minor is so proud of?
Well there was Labour councillor Evrim Laws – thrown off the council on the day before polling day in 2010 for failing to attend any meetings in a sixth month period. But this didn’t prevent her claiming more than £10,000 in allowances and expenses.
Then there’s Keadean Rhoden who was elected in May 2010, charged with benefit fraud (not for the first time) in June 2010, convicted in October 2010, and who finally resigned from the council in March 2011. Cost to the taxpayer of allowances = £7,500.
But it doesn’t end there – it moves on to the sinister.
Blogging Labour Cllr Stephen Govier forgot to tell his Labour colleagues while being approved as a candidate about his three year jail term in the US for shooting someone in the head in an apparently drug related shooting. Cllr Govier remains a councillor in Camberwell and Peckham – one of the UK’s drug and gun crime hotspots – claiming his annual allowance of £10,500.
And last but certainly not least there is now ex-Cllr John Friary who resigned from the council (and its cabinet) in January 2011 after being arrested on child sex grooming charges. As a full time executive councillor he was paid more than £40,000 on top of his £10,500 allowance.
So there you have it – a tale of deceit, fraud, gun crime and child sex. Is this what Ed Miliband means by ‘good’ Labour councils?