National politics

The BBC and the cuts

Today the BBC has a piece about how the forthcoming spending review will affect London’s councils. They say:

London councils ‘planning for £5bn cuts by 2014’

Councils in London on average are preparing cut their budget by 24% over three years, BBC London has learned. The 32 local authorities currently spend a total of £22bn and if that is reduced by 24%, about £5bn will be cut from the budget by 2014. This would see jobs go in at least 17 councils and services reduced.

The article is accompanied by the BBC’s nifty new Spending Review logo. Apparently this was going to be a big pair of scissors and use the “C” word until they decided to play with a straight bat.

Either the BBC are being sloppy or their bat is not so straight. The right cuts number is more like £1 billion across London rather than £5 billion. They fail to take into account that education spending, especially the frontline bit, is being protected and that much of council spending is covered by charges, not by government grants and that councils do have scope to increase charges if they wish.

Ealing is one of the biggest councils in London and its savings figure, which will no doubt be achieved is large part by increases in charges as well as cuts, is £53 million over the period, see below. There are 32 London councils (excluding the City of London). Multiply £53 million by 32 and you get £1.7 billion which I suspect is an overestimate in any case as Ealing is so large. Account for Ealing being large and exclude increases in charges and the cuts are more like £1 billion or only 5% of total spending.

The use of the single quote marks in the headline is very strange. Who is the anonymous author quoting. His or herself? Given that the number is total pants are they using the quote marks to give it false authority?

Is the BBC being malign or sloppy?

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