The trained economist is whinging again. According to his piece in the Gazette yesterday:
The Labour administration at Ealing Council is between a rock and a hard place.
It is not like he was unaware of the financial climate earlier this year when he wrote his partyâ€™s manifesto for Ealing. He said then in relation to Labour’s approach to council tax that they would be:
Keeping your council tax low with a freeze in the first year.
Presumably if the Coalition is the â€œrockâ€ he referred to, then the â€œhard placeâ€ is his own manifesto commitment. Ooops. The previous Conservative administration refused to make that same commitment precisely because we understood fully the financial storm to come as Jason Stacey pointed out in his Gazette column last week.
As we see with the proposed increase in parking charges, the equivalent of a 2% rise in council tax to be bought in three months early, we know that Labour’s instinct will be to cut frontline services and to ramp charges rather than to look at the council’s own internal costs which are largely dominated by labour costs.
We are facing an unprecedented level of cuts in our budgets over the next four years given the coalition governmentâ€™s ideological choice to slash public spending by unnecessary amounts and at a reckless speed.
Economic recovery is underway, unemployment has stabilized, and financial sector health has improved. The governmentâ€™s strong and credible multi-year fiscal deficit reduction plan is essential to ensure debt sustainability. The plan greatly reduces the risk of a costly loss of confidence in public finances and supports a balanced recovery. Fiscal tightening will dampen short-term growth but not stop it as other sectors of the economy emerge as drivers of recovery, supported by continued monetary stimulus.
Bell finally goes into a deficit denying rant:
Finally and most importantly we will make it very clear who is responsible for these cuts â€“ the Conservative LibDem coalition. The local Tories (and the largely irrelevant local LibDems due to their miniscule size) are trying to pretend that they are the protectors of local services and that the coalition government is nothing to do with them – a ludicrous and deeply dishonest position.
If they really want to protect local services they should either persuade their national parties to stop swinging the axe with such gusto or disassociate themselves from them by going independent or even crossing the floor and joining Labour.
The local Conservatives fully accept the Coalition’s programme and also recognise that these hard choices are driven by the nationâ€™s need to control the budget deficit which was Â£155 billion last year and will be Â£149 billion in the current year. Our borrowing requirement in just the month of August was Â£15.9 billion or Â£545 for every worker in Britain. This is Gordon Brownâ€™s poisonous legacy of debt.
Bell is out there with the likes of Ken Livingstone and the unions in taking this extreme deficit denying line. Even his new leader on Tuesday said:
Let me say, I believe strongly that we need to reduce the deficit. There will be cuts and there would have been if we had been in government. Some of them will be painful and would have been if we were in government. I wonâ€™t oppose every cut the coalition proposes. There will be some things the coalition does that we wonâ€™t like as a party but we will have to support. And come the next election there will be some things they have done that I will not be able to reverse. I say this because the fiscal credibility we earned before 1997 was hard won and we must win it back by the time of the next general election. I am serious about reducing our deficit.
We know who to blame and it is not the Coalition.