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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Out-of-touch Prime Minister hoisted by his own petard

Irrespective of the argument for and against austerity cuts to public services, I believe that it is reasonable that those taking decisions on these issues are aware of their implications.

According to the Independent, David Cameron appears to have fallen down at the first hurdle on this particular test. They say that Ian Hudspeth, the Tory leader of Oxfordshire County Council, came to blows with the Prime Minister over cuts in a letter exchange leaked to local newspaper the Oxford Mail:

The sometime political ally of Mr Cameron accused the Prime Minister of “inaccurate” comments about cuts after receiving a complaint about plans to slash vital services.

The PM, who represents a local constituency in Oxfordshire as an MP, had written to the council leader to complain about proposed cuts to frontline services in his own area – including elderly day centres, museums, and libraries.

He claimed that the council should be making “back-office savings” and protecting frontline services, that spending had increased in the authority in recent years, and that he was “disappointed” in cuts.

Mr Hudspeth wrote back to explain the council’s budget situation to the PM, who appeared unaware that cuts to local authorities would mean significant reductions to frontline local services.

“Excluding schools, our total government grants have fallen from £194m in 2009/10 to £122m a year in 2015/16, and are projected to keep falling at a similar rate,” the council leader said.

“I cannot accept your description of a drop in funding of £72m or 37% as a ‘slight fall’.”

The Conservative councillor also explained that an assertion by the PM that only £204m in cuts had been made in the local area was in fact wrong and that £626m had in fact been cut.

He said a suggestion by the PM that excess council property be sold off to fund services as a “creative” solution “neither legal, nor sustainable in the long-term since they are one-off receipts”.

This is all very embarrassing for the Prime Minister of course. Perhaps he should get out more.
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