Posted tagged ‘Liberal Democrats’

All politics is national

April 4, 2012

But not in Britain it ain't

The Americans have a saying that: ‘all politics is local’. By this they mean that unless a politician really understands what is going on locally they will ultimately be unsuccessful. In Britain, George Galloway apart, our politicians seem to have totally forgotten this maxim and follow the principle that all politics, not matter how local on the face of things, is national.

To be honest, nothing annoys me more than sitting down for my annual local government election Dimbleby all-nighter and being greeted with Nick Robinson explaining to his hapless voters that ‘whilst these elections are local elections, and we should remember that, it is a massive night for (insert name) as he seeks to demonstrate that his party should form the next Government.’

And it’s not just political journalists but politicians as well. Local elections have become, at least in the minds of those that operate nationally, simply a proxy in the ongoing war between the two and half main parties we have in the UK.

Every year I as the election period approaches, alongside trying to remember what Purdah means, I have a secret hope that our elected politicians will treat these local elections as what they are; local elections.

This year seems likely to provide me with yet another disappointment.

On Monday Ed Miliband launched the Labour campaign for the local government elections. Did he mention how Conservative or Liberal Democrat councils were not delivering good services or praise Labour councils for their innovation? Did he at least mention any of the big issues that affect local government?

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Understanding the Local Government budget cuts

September 28, 2011

When £10 million isn't 10 million pounds...

A little while ago one of my colleagues wrote a piece detailing how the ‘feared’ cuts of April 2011 were in reality just the calm before the storm. They briefly explained how local authorities had dealt with the budget cuts in a very short period of time:

Well, some of them looked at what they could do in a few months and made some small cuts around the edges. Others looked at small financial adjustments they could make which could keep them going for a year. Some found ‘underspends’ to roll over whilst others just dived into their reserves to make ends meet from 2010/11 to 2011/12.

This is evidence, if ever it was needed, that the local government budget process is pretty complicated. This was further brought home to me last week when the estimable Simon Parker of the NLGN reported from the Lib Dem Conference that:

Turns out LibDems aren’t all that passionate about #localgov – but MPs in denial – one said cuts ‘not draconian.

Not draconian? Surely they missed the memo?

Well, either that or they simply don’t quite understand the local government budget.

The budget in my local authority is roughly (and all numbers here are rough as the budget process is way above my pay grade) £140 million and we’re being asked to find something like £50 million savings over the next four years. The assumption you might make is that the council’s budget in 2015 would be just £90 million.

Unfortunately, this is totally incorrect. Our budget in 2015 will probably end up being something like £130 million. You might then assume that this is a cut of just £10 million and something that our Lib Dem friends would easily describe as ‘not draconian’. Again, you’d be wrong.

So why the discrepancy?

Because life isn’t static and nor is the council budget.

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Liberal Anonymity

September 21, 2011

So remind me; who are you again?

This blog is not necessarily one that takes a great amount of notice of the internal workings of our country’s political parties. However, as I listened to my daily dose of John Humphries and his Crazy crew this morning I heard that one of today’s ‘highlights’ at the conference would be a speech by the Liberal Democrat Local Government Minister Andrew Stunnell.

Unfortunately, I have to work during the day so caught up with his speech in the written form yesterday evening (you can do so too).

So where to begin?

Well, Mr Stunnell started with a joke and although it takes some explaining I assume everyone in the conference hall got it. Speaking about the coalition negotiations he said:

Newspapers full of the back stories of the four-man Liberal Democrat negotiation team of Danny Alexander, Chris Huhne and David Laws.

I’m not bitter.

Honest.

The Guardian wouldn’t have spelt my name right anyway.

Funnily enough I can empathise with the Guardian on this one. We’ve written between five and ten posts about the DCLG over the past 18 months and do you know how many of them have involved Mr Stunnell? Well, the answer is none. Reading the rest of his speech I couldn’t work out whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.

Was it good that the Liberal Democrats only Minister in the DCLG had kept his head down and not joined in the Eric Pickles inspired local government baiting?

Or was it a sign of Liberal Democrat ineffectiveness that despite being in Government nothing changed?

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