Opinion: Lib Dems Must oppose Labour’s ideological cuts in 2012

If I were a cleverer person than I am, I would try to create a joke with a punch line to fit the following set-up: What’s the difference between a cut in government spending and an ideological cut in government spending?

That I’m not clever enough to create a pithy punch line is of no consequence, as it is no laughing matter.

Labour have sometimes tried to trail the line that the coalition’s cuts are avoidable, that there are the product of ideology rather than necessity.

This line lacked some credence because even as they were saying it, the Labour manifesto if 2010, written by a certain Ed Miliband, detailed how Labour would cut.

Alastair Darling said in the Chancellor’s debate on Channel 4 Television pre-the 2010 election that there would be cuts ‘faster and deeper than Thatcher’ under Labour after the election if Labour won, Vince Cable and George Osborne agreed with him that day.

Ed Balls recently published an article in The Times in which he said that Labour would be cutting now if they were in power. (I would post a link but it is behind a pay wall.)

So the consensus appears to be that cuts are necessary and would be happening now, no matter who won in 2010.  

That’s not to say that ideological cuts are not happening.  Right now across Britain ideological cuts are depriving people of vital services when there is ample cash to pay for them, those cuts are being implemented by Labour councils.

One such example is Haringey Borough Council in London , an area of high deprivation and scene of some of the worst rioting in London recently, is to cut almost £60 million from its budget over the next four years, while having ample cash reserves as can be seen here and here.

But as can be seen from the second of those links, Labour in Haringey are not some ideological mutation of Labour nationally, rather they are doing what Labour council’s across Britain are doing, cutting for the sake of it.

Lambeth council in London is closing services, but has cash and reserves of £120million. It also continues to pay the wages of shop stewards.

I’m a huge believer in Trade Unions, but they are ideological groups, and if Labour is cutting a front line service to pay for people to promote an ideology labour agree with, that surely is an ideological cut?  

Even Doncaster Council, where Ed Miliband is the MP, has gotten in on the act, closing services while having millions in the bank.

Now the great economic Liberal JM Keynes was a great believer in fiscal prudence, saving money in the good times to be a safety net in bad times. But I think we can all agree these are the bad times, so what are the councils waiting for?

Further evidence that council’s are making cuts that are not necessary comes from the fact that no council where the Lib Dems are in overall control has cut a single sure start centre or Library.

Now I will leave it up to readers to decide why Labour Council’s across London and the UK are making these cuts, some might argue its simply incompetence, and after 13 years of seeing how Labour  ran Britain ,  incompetence is something we can certainly believe of them.

But then you get back to the ideological point, and you think: All of those Labour councillors making those cuts will be up for re-election between now and 2014. I wonder will they perhaps start announcing huge spending initiatives in the run up to that election, and perhaps tell a tale of how they have all of this money despite the Coalition cuts and doesn’t that show what and efficient bunch of administrators they are?

It would help them get re-elected to promote their ideology, and never mind the damage down.

There might even be a council leader somewhere in Britain who will say, he has abolished boom and bust.

Lib Dems nationally are putting the long-term betterment of the current ahead of short-term election considerations, with 2012 soon to be upon us, we must dedicate the new year to campaigning against Labour’s ideological cuts in our communities.

* David Thorpe is a Lib Dem member in Hammersmith and Fulham.

* David Thorpe was the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for East Ham in the 2015 General Election

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  • Andrew Emmerson 22nd Dec '11 - 3:39pm

    An interesting piece however, 1) Ridiculed with spelling errors (Labour twice) 2) needs more evidence backing it up, and could have done with referencing Manchester Labours pupil premium cut 3) It fails to mention, how as lib dems we oppose said “ideological cuts”

    Other than that a good starting point,

  • Sadly you fail to mention one of the most insidious and damaging ideological cuts of all – the slashing of Sure Start. Both members of the coalition government where at the time of the election in full support of Sure Start – now it is slashed in councils like yours, Hammersmith. It is ideological to cut from the weakest and the most vulnerable. That is something the Coalition Government have embarked on and something their representatives in local councils enact day in day out.

  • It can depend whether these are allocated or unallocated reserves. Newcastle upon Tyne used to have approximately £8m reserves (any less and the District Auditor gets unhappy). However, when we ran the Council Labour would add things such as money due to be spent on BSF and claim we had about £100m to spend. Of course, you can’t spend the same money twice.

  • david thorpe 22nd Dec '11 - 7:09pm

    Thanks for all the comments and apologies for the spellingf errors
    What aere the consequences of spending reservews? What is the puprose of having reserves if its not to spend them?
    @andrew emmerson,

    I wrote this piece a good many days ago, the pupil premium decision only emrged since I wrote it, or of course I would have included it.

    I would ask again. whats the point of reserves if not to use them on a rainty day?

  • The difference between cuts and cuts driven by ideology is that the former would be reversed if the economy allowed, the latter would not. That is the difference between Lib Dems and Tories.

  • Sorry to be a pedant but for clarity Doncaster council is run by a directly elected Mayor who is an English Democrat and the father of this Conservative MP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Davies

  • “(any less and the District Auditor gets unhappy).”

    District Auditors have been saying they are unhappy with the levels of reserves as long as I”ve been in politics 🙂 The “bare bones” reserves people had in 1991 would look pretty palatial now I suspect.

  • Iain Sharpe 23rd Dec '11 - 9:16am

    @ David – The problem is that if you use (by definition finite) reserves to fund ongoing service commitments sooner or later you run out of money. Just as an individual would if they spent more than their income and used savings to make up the difference. Thus Neil is right to say that they can only really be used to “either taper cuts or to buy time while you redesign the service”. Which is not to say that councils shouldn’t use them in this way, and it would be no surprise if Labour Councils were cutting deeper and faster than they needed to in the hope of blaming the government. At least that’s what Watford did under Labour in the 1990s.

  • Perhaps the reason why (allegedly) Labour councils are cutting faster than councils run by other parties is because Labour councils tend to be more prevalent in Northern towns and cities and the local government finance settlement is harsher for those areas, compared to the leafier Tory shires of the south. My own local Labour council did not close any libraries or Sure Start centres this year but they now have to make further deep spending cuts in 2012-13 and there is a limit to how much you can squeeze out of “efficiency savings”.

    I find the portrayal of wicked Labour councillors making unnecessarily drastic cuts so they can blame the government somewhat fanciful.

  • “What aere the consequences of spending reservews? What is the puprose of having reserves if its not to spend them?”

    This is fantasy politics – are you being serious? If Labour councils were setting budgets with no cuts, and using their reserves to do it, I can guarantee that Pickles – with full-throated support from Lib Dem MPs – would be raging, and probably legislating to stop it. And they’d have a point. Councils that blow their reserves in a couple of years are heading toward disaster.

    It takes some nerve to support UK budgets that deliver massive cuts to councils, frontloaded, giving little time for tapered adjustments – and the biggest were to Labour councils (funny how that happened, eh?) – and then blame those councils for making cuts. I’ll be honest, I can’t see this line of attack working…

    And yes, I think Labour said they would be making cuts. Just lower ones, and not as early – perhaps not strangling the recovery, as Clegg said it would before the election. The difference is of course ideological – what possible other explanation is there: a typo in Osborne’s budget?

  • Reserves can only be spent once or for one year on revenue services then you are back to square one. If spend to save projects can lead to preservation of services that’s fine as are building projects to reduce revenue spend. As has been mentioned there are earmarked reserves in some Councils because the single status agreement has yet to be resolved which can involve 6 years’ backpay for some staff, megabucks. Yes that can sometimes be capitalised but it will require a revenue spend later.

  • david thorpe 23rd Dec '11 - 1:46pm

    chris W

    Lib dem c ouncils are protetcing fornt line servrivces and are using reservesa and made a masisve point of highlighting that in their campiagns, so no they would not be condemning it

    There is of cpourse a case to be made for the labour nbroughs being poorer.

    Im not saying labour councils are cutting afster etc, Im saying they are cutting unnescessraily, how can it be justified for labour council tpo pay for shop stewrads and close sure start centres?

  • Andrew Suffield 23rd Dec '11 - 8:32pm

    The difference between cuts and cuts driven by ideology is that the former would be reversed if the economy allowed, the latter would not.

    Indeed. Note that the difference is not about one being worse than the other. For example, even if it was affordable, the party would not be reversing the ID cards cut. That is Lib Dem ideology and there is nothing wrong with cutting something based on your ideology.

    This whole “ideological cuts” meme is thoughtless nonsense.

  • MacK (Not a Lib Dem) 24th Dec '11 - 10:59am

    This piece by David Thorpe is completely disingenuous. Labour councils which have the biggest social costs are being disproportionately penalised by the Coalition Government and so are having to implement unprecedented cuts in their budgets which have been decided centrally. Casuistry alone will not abnegate the Liberal Democrats from their responsibility for the misery that they are helping the Tories create, particularly here in the North.

  • david thorpe 24th Dec '11 - 4:03pm

    @ ,ack, the vcpouncils I have highlighted are not having to tdo anything they have the money, but they choose toi employ shop stewards rather than protect frontline services.

    I am in no way claiming that all of the money marked reserves, is available to spend or indeed should be spent, but they are deliberatley witholding some of that money when they have no obligation to.
    They are also employing shop stewards, professional campiagners for an intereest group, rather than protectoing the wider community.
    The SDP were foudend by people who felt that a government should govern for all, not merely for some interest groups, Lbaour continue to show where their priorities lie.

  • david thorpe 28th Dec '11 - 1:06pm

    @ alex,

    of course I aCCEPT TYHOSE POLITICIans have ther right to do so, but I also accept, and so should you in a democracy, that the oppositon parties should fight those measures which they disgaree with, thats called democracy.

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