Labour councils cut more jobs than Tory or Lib Dem areas

Labour councils are cutting far more jobs than their Conservative and Liberal Democrat neighbours – on average 50% more than Tory councils, according to figures revealed by the Guardian:

Labour authorities have issued on average 745 job “at-risk” notifications, compared with 498 and 414 respectively from Tory and Lib Dem councils.

The figures are the first to confirm that Labour councils are making bigger cuts and appear to bolster claims by David Cameron and Nick Clegg that Labour councils are cutting and then blaming the coalition for “politically motivated” reasons.

However, the Guardian’s analysis also reveals that Labour authorities are suffering the worst budget cuts, with a 7% reduction in “spending power” on average, compared with 5% in Tory areas and 6% in Lib Dem areas.

Last week coalition ministers accused Labour of making political capital out of the coalition’s actions. The PM said “we are seeing politically motivated moves by Labour councils”. This came after Manchester announced 2,000 redundancies in what local government minister Grant Shapps called “a cynical move by a Labour council intentionally cutting frontline services and playing politics with people’s lives”.

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32 Comments

  • I saw this article and thought it was quite poorly written as there are a lot of buts in it and also it is not clear if they are comparing apples to apples or pears. A bit more research and rigour would be needed before it should generate the headline it uses.

    Not the first or last time that a media analysis (of either side) is lacking depth though

  • I haven’t seen the article but on the face of it it sounds like rubbish. What are the relative sizes of the authorities being compared? How many authorities are being compared (the effects of cuts are still being announced daily as far as I know)? The implication seems to be that Labour authorities are cutting staff more drastically than they should in order to make a political point: that would be a very serious charge, and one that would need rigorous analytical support.

  • What they all said – terrible journalism

  • Depressed Ex 15th Feb '11 - 6:00pm

    I’d like to see some adjustment for the size of the councils, or the % reduction in workforce.

    The Guardian did do this calculation too. Expressed as a percentage of workforce the figures are:
    Con: 6.61%
    Lab: 8.95%
    LD: 9.05%

    Of course, that still doesn’t account for differences in the size of cuts in government funding.

  • Depressed Ex 15th Feb '11 - 6:03pm

    I haven’t seen the article but on the face of it it sounds like rubbish.

    Probably best to follow the link rather than relying on LDV’s take on the article!

  • If the figures from Depressed ex are correct (and I haven’t seen them reported before’ then it evens itself out as the Guardian article itself says that the Tory councils average a 5% cut versus 7% average for Labour

    As said before however there needs to be more analysis presented to support the headline – and to be honest I do not think it will

  • This is really poor quality information as it neither takes account of the size of workforce or the actual number of redundancies. It refers to at risk notifications. If, for example, a council needs to reduce it’s receptionists by 50% it couldn’t pre-judge the process by giving 50% of the receptionists a redundancy notice. It is roles not people that are made redundant. Therefore all receptionists would be at risk and a structured process would need to be followed (for every receptionist) until the final 50% are chosen. Until that decision all receptionists are at risk….

    Alarm bells should also be ringing when the difference in the amount of cuts is so great, if there was no political element you would expect this to equalise overall.

    All of this, of course, does not mean that Labour are not making more cuts, or that they are politically motivated. Other factors such as size of reserve and quality of management are also factors.

    So probably worth waiting until some real data is available!!!

  • IMHO a couple of bits that should have been included here for completeness are:

    First a quote:
    “Richard Kemp, leader of the Lib Dems in the LGA, said: “If anyone is making political cuts, it is absolutely despicable and unacceptable. But I cannot see any council of any party choosing to make people jobless for the sake of it.””

    Secondly a spot the difference contest:

    Manchester (Labour) lost the biggest percentage of any authority 8.8%. They are cutting 2000 staff cuts that have been described as “a cynical move by a Labour council intentionally cutting frontline services and playing politics with people’s lives”

    Norfolk (Tory) lost just 2%. They are cutting 3000 posts which of course did not get a similar comment from Mr Shapps!

    If it weren’t for the coalition Lib Dem councils would probably get the same attitude from Shapps, it just enforces to me that those who wrote to the Times last week were correct……

  • Depressed Ex – yes, you are quite right, I should have followed the link. I stand by my conclusion though: I do not believe that these figures provide evidence to support Grant Shapps’ contention that Labour councils are cutting jobs for politically motivated reasons. There are so many factors involved here: the size of Council balances; the degree to which necessary cuts in workforces have been anticipated by particular local authorities (after all, it has been crystal clear for two or three years that serious cuts were going to have to be made whoever had won last year’s election), so that forward-looking authorities could have minimised current job losses by natural wasteage over the past two years; the extent to which Labour authorities employed people in posts which seemed necessary in the good times but which now appear dispensable. All those of us who have been involved at local government level know that there is a wide variation in the degree of competence with which councils are run, and that there is no necessary relationship between political control and competence.

  • Depressed Ex 15th Feb '11 - 7:53pm

    The detailed figures are on this page:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/feb/15/council-jobs-cuts-list

    A quick glance suggests to me that they may reflect the character of the area covered by the authority rather than the party that happens to be in power. If you look at some of the LD councils in northern urban areas, you’ll see some very large percentages. For example, 12% in Burnley and in York, 15% in Chesterfield and in Newcastle, 16% in Hull.

    I think it would be unwise (to say nothing of contemptible) to try to use these figures to score a cheap political point.

  • @Helen Duffett

    I do not trust a word the Guardian says about any political party. It has parked it’s tanks on Dave Cameron’s lawn for the past 3 years.

    I fear you and LDV have been a little too keen to throw tribal spears at Labour once again. If you were to put the job losses side-by-side with the budget cuts imposed by your Coalition, you would see how the job losses correlate.

  • LabourLiberal 15th Feb '11 - 10:45pm

    Er – I assume almost all council job cuts are because of cuts in council budgets; there’s no reason for councils to cut jobs unless they can’t afford them. So this suggests that Labour councils are having to cut more jobs because their budgets have been slashed more drastically than Tory and Lib Dem councils. In which case, who can blame them for making political capital? This article is trying to do exactly that anyway, with the difference being that Labour actually has a point.

  • Genuine question – what prevents councils from raising the level of Council Tax to replace the lost income?

    Furthermore, have we seen which services these councils have kept vs the ones they’ve cut?

  • So what, are we to believe that Labour Councils are cutting more jobs and pocketing the money? More realistically that they are, as somebody said, less willing to freeze pay and thus more willing to cut jobs? This article feels like it is longing to make a point but stops just short out of fear it will be proven wrong.

  • @Tabman

    wrt Council tax rises.

    Pickles has changed the rules. Councils can only raise taxes if a referendum on it is won.

    And guess what? People tend not to vote for tax rises.

    You only have to look at California a few years back to see what folly this creates.

  • Cuse – AIUI that change comes in nest year, what prevents the change this year?

    And although a referendum is a more frequent consultation than a quadrennial election, isn’t the principle the same? Namely that if the public vote for lower taxes its up to councils to deliver what the public voted for, not tell them they’ve got it wrong?

  • @Tabman

    Interesting analysis. Where/how did I claim that if the electorate voted to keep Council Tax down that they were wrong?

    California is the only example you need, however. They were crippled by the public’s desire to keep taxes down to levels that couldn’t support even the most basic of public services. And guess what? There were public demonstrations regularly demanding that those exact same public services were re-instated to levels of service they had previously.

    I wouldn’t say the electorate were wrong. I would say that when it comes to taxation, the level of partisan debate and public scrutiny that a referendum would create are not sufficient to allow the electorate to be fully informed.

  • Depressed Ex 16th Feb '11 - 9:24am

    You’ve got to remember that only about a quarter of local authority income comes from council tax. Compensating for cuts in central government funding would require huge rises in council tax.

  • Richard Church 16th Feb '11 - 9:30am

    @Tabman
    The government are giving extra money to councils who freeze their Council tax this year equivalent to a 2.5% increase in the Council tax. Although Councils could in theory increase their Council tax this year, the loss of this extra grant means it is not worth it.

    The daft idea of referendums on council taxes are in the localism bill, not yet legislation. I wonder if Mr Pickles will pursue his own logic and call for a referendum every time the government increases VAT?

  • richard heathcote 16th Feb '11 - 9:49am

    why are people worried about job cuts anyway after all isnt the private sector going to swoop in and employ all these people who lose their jobs?

  • Depressed Ex 16th Feb '11 - 10:07am

    why are people worried about job cuts anyway after all isnt the private sector going to swoop in and employ all these people who lose their jobs?

    Yes, that’s right. Even now herds of specially trained pigs are being prepared to do the swooping.

  • This quote from the article…
    Manchester (Labour) lost the biggest percentage of any authority 8.8%. They are cutting 2000 staff cuts that have been described as “a cynical move by a Labour council intentionally cutting frontline services and playing politics with people’s lives”
    …directly contradicts the later claim that the average for Labour councils was 8.95% and LD 9.05% [though these are based on previous years].

    So all the figures including those in the article are a bit suspect really.

  • In fact, the sending out of redundancy notices are precautionary, rather than certain, so even the GMB figures are suspect.

  • Cuse/DELD – that, I think, is the problem in a nutshell.

    I believe that all revenue spent locally should be raised locally. Reduce central income tax and allow local authorities to set tax bills accordingly. It would/should reinvigorate local government for a start.

    Cuse – the basic point stands, though – there is a massive degree of dishonesty in this country from politicians of all stripes, and the public connive in this, about levels of taxation and levels of services that go with it.

    Fundamentally what the California example shows is what happens when this dishonesty meets reality.

    Its Central Government’s role in being the majority source of funds for local government that’s the real issue here.

  • Depressed Ex 16th Feb '11 - 11:06am

    I believe that all revenue spent locally should be raised locally.

    That’s fine if you’re the kind of person who thinks that idyllic Stockbrokerbridge-on-the-Wold shouldn’t have any responsibility for the grinding poverty in post-industrial Grimtown.

    None of the Lib Dems I ever knew was that kind of person, though, and I sincerely hope not many are even these days.

  • You can’t have it both ways DELD. Either you accept that if the largest proportion of local govt funding comes from central govt then it is at the whim of centrally imposed diktat and aribtrary change, or you accept that for there to be a greater sensitivity to local needs and concerns there has to be a greater degree of local control of revenue raising powers.

  • Depressed Ex 16th Feb '11 - 11:41am

    Tabman

    You can argue for “a greater degree of local control of revenue raising powers” if you like, but to say that “all revenue spent locally should be raised locally” is breathtakingly naive and simplistic.

    As for the stuff about my trying to “have it both ways,” it’s rubbish. There’s no reason the government SHOULD act in an unfair and arbitrary way, and if it does there’s no reason we should have to accept it.

  • @Tabman @Depressed Ex

    The problem with pure local revenue is that the requirement for many services goes up as the ability to pay goes down. This is why there needs to be an element of wider redistribution than is possible using purely local taxation. Sort of a Hackney Vs Hampstead argument. If poorer areas have to rely soley on local revenue for their services then we risk creating virtual ghettos.

    Have the requirements established independantly (taking into account possible local tax revenue be that income or property based and variation in the cost of service provision etc) and central Government then are responsible for providing that which is required but cannot be locally funded. So stockbroker belt may get very little and areas where most residents are not council / local income tax payers (or at least not higher band payers) get more. It’s the independant bit that’s crucial, Labour favour urban areas Tories don’t care about them and both use these predjudices to set funding levels. Any party political involvement will skew the results, every council starts with enough to provide core services. If it is tied in with ensuring councils are not punished for efficiency savings then efficient running equals more money for extra services.

  • “It’s the independant bit that’s crucial, Labour favour urban areas Tories don’t care about them and both use these predjudices to set funding levels. Any party political involvement will skew the results, every council starts with enough to provide core services. If it is tied in with ensuring councils are not punished for efficiency savings then efficient running equals more money for extra services.”

    That, I think, is the nub of the issue. How effectively to benchmark properly.

  • Just a point on California. It’s stymied a bit by “Proposition 13” which prevents property tax being increased by more than 2% per year – this came about as a result of a referendum.

    However, it’s good to see that some Labour supporters on this board at least understand the difference between the “at risk” letters and actual redundancy, and also the processes councils go through in working out who will be made redundant and who will be kept. Perhaps they could arrange to give lessons to Labour councillors in Fife, who are actually criticising the council for issuing “at risk” letters (while not objecting to the need for redundancies themselves) and also for asking people to choose in advance what they’d like to do, before redundancy is confirmed. You couldn’t make it up – Labour councillors arguing against Labour employment laws!

  • @KL
    I am probably one of the “Labour Supporters” you refer to. Unfortunately I am not one, I voted Lib Dem I just don’t agree with a lot Clegg and co are doing woth my vote….

    I would however be pleased to pass on the details of the HR consultant my company uses, he’s a good guy and the council sound like they could do with his advice!!!

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