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Ealing and Northfield

Cllr Bell could tell it straight

Council leader Julian Bell really lets himself down with this nonsense. Labour are touting this £66 million cuts number. Included in this number are a whole range of measures including price rises and shuffling things off onto the NHS and schools. The real cuts are much smaller.

One of the truly silly wheezes that Labour is employing is to blame the government for “cuts” which are caused by spending increases – if you are in a zero sum gain then spending increases in one area have to be paid for by cuts elsewhere.

If you dig into the details of Labour’s budget some £7.3 million of growth has to be paid for by savings elsewhere. They had originally budgeted for £2 million of growth so have simply added £5 million of “cuts” to their headline number to take it to £66 million and make their sums add up.

Inconveniently for Labour the previous Tory administration quietly and calmly took out some £60 million in savings. In four years there was about £40 million in growth, some for new things we wanted to do such as street cleaning and additional police officers and some for things we had no choice about. We did not moan about cuts and include the £40 million in some hideous Labour government cuts number.

Local government is a bit of a money go round. Old activities get stopped (cuts or savings) and new things get started (growth). There are always new things. If you did not stop doing some things every penny we earned would be spent by the state. This creative cycle is very natural in the private sector but causes endless hand-wringing in the state sector.

The current government cuts are taking total government spending back to 2007 levels in real terms. It is not the end of the world as uncomfortable as it will be for many people.

Cllr Bell needs to up his game somewhat.