Ealing and Northfield

I am sorry but the people we pay to run local services in Ealing are not telling it straight

The Gazette on Friday regurgitated an Ealing Council press release on “Deeper cuts” without any comment from opposition spokespeople. Interestingly the Gazette headline was more measured than the headline used the council officers we pay to be objective.

The council said:

Deeper cuts bring more pain as council loses £205million over the decade

Whilst the Gazette contented itself with:

Services in Ealing to have lost 50% of funding by 2020

Both of these statements are pretty misleading.

Back in August, in a futile attempt to shore up Liz Kendall, Julian Bell, issued an open letter of support. In doing so he came up with his latest fantasy cuts number – only £183 million back then, see here.

I was not impressed with his misuse of statistics so I wrote to the Council’s chief executive to get the full picture. I wrote to him on the 17th August and got the final, corrected response on 9th September. Not having a suitable hook to hang publication of the numbers on I sat on them. Now that even the council’s own officers have joined in the misinformation I figured it was time.

I simply asked the chief executive to spell out the council’s past income and future income in a comparable way so that the layman could properly judge the eye watering cuts numbers numbers being bandied about by Labour politicians (and by council officers rather shockingly this week). The key numbers are set out below (click picture to enlarge).

Gross budget

The headline number here is the Gross Budget. The total amount of money coming into the council every year for eight years. Of course lots of detail needs to be explained but in 2009/2010 – the last year under Gordon Brown the council spent £790 million and in 2017/18 it predicts that it will spend … £790 million. The later number is likely to be an underestimate – the predicted income will have been low balled and the predicted expenditure will have been high balled.

I don’t want to belittle the achievement of council officers in having to deal with massive changes to council finances. But, you can see how we can still be running an overall budget deficit at national level whilst all the time spending agencies are wailing about cuts.

It is clear from these numbers that we need to divert funding from housing benefit and the council has had to make room for more schools spending as school rolls have expanded. But, it is also clear that the numbers being used by the council do not usefully convey the real picture.

I have reproduced the more detail from the council below. Happy to discuss some of the details in the comments.

  1. Total gross expenditure includes two significant areas, schools and housing benefit, where the level of spending is not controlled by the council. These areas of spend are also ring-fenced so they can only be expended on specific functions.
  2. In April 2013, statutory responsibility for Public Health, together with the associated funding, was transferred to local government from the NHS. Of the current funding received by the Council £22m relates directly to the discharge of this function.
  3. As requested the starting year for the analysis is 2009/10. However the 2010/11 financial year is shaded because this was the final budget set before the election of the coalition government in 2010 and is therefore the relevant baseline.
  4. During the period there have been a number of changes to the local government funding system which will have impacted on individual income lines set out in the analysis. The most significant of these is the replacement of council tax benefit with the localised council tax support scheme in April 2013, which explains why the council tax figure reduces at that point. There will be other changes that are not as significant or apparent but which may affect like for like comparisons.
  5. The analysis identifies the cash reduction in the council’s total funding. The figure of £183m takes into account unfunded inflationary and some demographic pressures over the period.
Ealing and Northfield

Ealing Council blows £200K on virtue signalling

I am quite happy to see Ealing Council being broadly supportive of higher wages for the low paid but I am not sure to what extent it should be a priority if it means taking cash from frontline services for what is essentially virtue signalling by businesses and the council.

Citizens UKYesterday’s announcement of £200K in business rates relief for local businesses looks good on the face of it but is in reality just a bung to Citizens UK which is a churchy advocacy movement. All well and good but there is no way that Ealing Council could ever justify a £100K a year grant of unrestricted funds to Citizens UK and this looks all too much like a back door way of supporting an advocacy group rather than a boon to local businesses. There will be lots of voluntary organisations which do work directly with needy people in Ealing who will wonder why Ealing council has taken millions of Pounds off them in recent years but is now bunging Citizens UK £200K.

The money that the council is diverting from vital services such as childrens’ services is going to be used to pay £500 a year fees for businesses to be accredited by what is effectively a campaign or subsidiary of Citizens UK called the Living Wage Foundation. This is really just a trading name of Citizens UK which is constituted as a charity.

Citizens UK sucks and blows about £1 million per annum so this new source of funds for Citizens UK is worth about 10% of their total income for two years – a good deal for them if Ealing businesses take it up.

This exercise is just virtue signalling on the public purse. The Council itself says:

Ealing Council is marking its intention to become a Living Wage Borough

Great, £200K worth of marking. More expensive even than Bassam Mahfouz’s Christmas tree which was £13K spent signalling the council’s recycling credentials. Next time Julian Bell tells you how heartbroken he is over cuts ask him how he found this £200K.

Ealing and Northfield

Labour shifts left, Sahota bows dutifully

Local property magnate, health entrepreneur and part-time politician Onkar Sahota has quickly got on board with Labour’s suicidal lurch to the left. You would expect anyone as commercially minded as Sahota to be on the right of the Labour party and that was reflected in his choices in the recently concluded round of Labour party internal elections.

He backed Yvette Cooper for the leadership and Tessa Jowell for the London mayoralty.

Nothing if not flexible, Sahota has been quick to accept the new reality.

Ealing and Northfield

One open letter deserves another

Today the reasonable wing of the Ealing Labour party has come out in favour of Liz Kendall for leader of the Labour party. All well and good. Today council leader Julian Bell issued the “open letter” below:

Now at least the Ealing lefties will know who to knife at the next selection meeting.

Wasting no opportunity to get one of his favourite political lines in Bell says:

As Councillors from Ealing we know how hard the Tory government has hit our Borough. Ealing Council funding has been cut by £183m between 2010 and 2018 – that is over 50% of our budget…

This is a total misuse of words. Any normal understanding of the word budget is that it is the total amount you have to spend and what you spend it on. In reality Ealing Council spends in the order of £800 million a year but they are shy of saying this because it makes cuts that the council has had to endure sound too small. Is it really credible that Ealing Council is going to be half the size it was in 2010? No. I last looked at this last summer and the council’s expenditure since 2010 had essentially been flat in cash terms.

The council may well have lost something like half of its central government funding, which is extremely painful, but its council tax revenue has been going up in spite of the freeze, due to new building among other factors, and it has ramped up prices for council services considerably (£10 million of the “savings” in the last council 2010-2014 were price rises, so no cuts at all, just price rises replacing government grant).

Rather than write an open letter to Bell who will either not respond or who will fail to give me an honest answer I have written To the Chief Executive of the council, Martin Smith.

Letter to Martin Smith 17th August 2015

Ealing and Northfield

The Ealing jobs miracle – youth unemployment only a quarter of what it was

Unemployment in the London Borough of Ealing, as measured by the claimant count, peaked under Labour in September 2009. Since then unemployment overall in Ealing has halved and youth unemployment is down almost 3/4. If you want to see where the data comes from all you have to do is go to the ONS’s nomis database.

NOMIS All June 2015

In May 2010 the claimant count (those people on JSA) was 8,810. In June, the last month for which data is available, the claimant count was 5,005. That is a fall of 43% since May 2010. The claimant count peaked at 9,580 in September 2009 under Labour. It has fallen by 48%, pretty much half, since.

NOMIS Youth June 2015

The picture with youth unemployment is even better. In May 2010 the youth claimant count was 1,780. In June the youth claimant count was 685. That is a massive fall of almost two thirds, 62%, since 2010. The youth claimant count peaked at 2,450 in September 2009 under Labour, a fall of 72%, almost 3/4, since.

I look forward to some rejoicing from our local MPs on this topic but I suspect I will be disappointed.

Ealing and Northfield

Ealing Labour still too complacent on school performance

I have criticised the council and the local Labour group for their complacency with respect to school standards before.

At the last council meeting on Tuesday 9th June the councillors discussed the Corporate Plan, click for papers. Acton councillor Dan Crawford enthusiastically tweeted in approbation of the Labour education spokesman Binda Rai. Either he garbled what she was saying or Rai doesn’t understand her brief. 91% is the current year target for outstanding/good primaries.

Ealing Conservative Press Release 17-6-2015

In a press release today the local Tories point out that as good as the performance may look to the casual observer it still potentially leaves a staggering 9,500 children in schools that are not good enough. We need to get angry about any school that is not great.

Ealing and Northfield

What happened in Ealing Central and Acton last week?

We all know that Rupa Huq was elected as the MP for Ealing Central and Acton (EC&A) last week, and that Angie Bray lost. But how did people vote and how did their vote change from 2010 when this new constituency was first contested?

EC&A vote shares in 2010
EC&A vote shares in 2010

In 2010 EC&A was a three way marginal with the Conservatives getting 17,944 votes (38.0% of the vote), Labour 14,228 (30.1%) and the LibDems a very respectable “I agree with Nick” 13,041 (27.6%). UKIP 765 (1.6%) and the Greens 737 (1.6%) remained only minor players.

EC&A vote share in 2015
EC&A vote share in 2015

In 2015 EC&A has reverted to being a two-way marginal with three minor parties.

The turnout increased by a healthy 4% percentage points this year going from 67.52% to 71.5%. The total number of (valid) voters increased by 3,694 (8%) from 47,418 to 50,935 (driven by the rise in turnout, there being 1,000 more registered voters and fewer spoilt ballot papers).

The Conservatives added 3,784 extra voters increasing their vote share from 38.0% to 42.7%. This is a great result. The Conservatives got almost another 5% points of vote share. Their voters increased by more than the overall increase in voters. They upped the number of people voting for them by 21%.

Of course Labour did even better. They got 7,774 extra votes increasing their vote share by 13% from 30.1% to 43.2%. 55% more people voted for Labour.

Vote changes between 2010 and 2015
Vote changes between 2010 and 2015

I think what is clear from these numbers is that both the local Conservatives and Labour party worked very hard for people’s votes this year. The LibDems lost almost 10,000 votes and were harshly punished for their time in the Coalition government. Labour gained almost 8,000 votes as many disaffected LibDems joined them spurred on I think by Labour’s mendacious NHS campaign. The Conservatives picked up almost 4,000 extra voters and disappointingly, for me at least, came within a whisker of keeping Angie Bray’s seat.

Both UKIP and the Greens doubled their votes picking up over 1,000 new votes each. Both lost their deposits. The LibDems did at least keep their deposit but were only about 500 votes away from losing it.

It seems to me that the Conservative vote held up very well in this constituency. The Labour vote increased but one third of their voters are borrowed. With Rupa Huq’s tiny majority of 274 I think she will be spending every spare hour in her constituency or she will be toast in 2020.

My prediction is that the Ealing Labour party will take every opportunity to subvert the council and its resources to promote Rupa Huq over the next five years. Expect to see her elbowing her way to the front of every municipal photo opportunity.

Ealing and Northfield

Labour’s empty NHS promises: Both Miliband and Burnham come to Ealing and offer a review

After five years of blaming their own £20 billion Nicholson Challenge policy, and it local roll out (AKA Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF)), on the Conservatives we are now starting to hear Labour’s meagre promises on the local NHS system.

First off Ed Miliband came to Ealing on 24th April to address a rally.

When asked about Ealing Hospital he said:

We will obviously review decisions that are being made when we get into Government because I think you have to ask questions about downgrading an A&E at a time when there is an A&E crisis.

Wow! A review. Pathetic. No promise of any substantial change to SaHF. Just a review. Great. We had one of those when the Independent Review Panel looked at it – and they waved it through.

Miliband’s message was underlined only this last Saturday when Shadow Secretary of State of Health, Andy Burnham, came to Ealing.

According to Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter Burnham said:

I am minded not to proceed with those changes (to west London A&Es). Will demand full clinical review.

So after five years of heaping ordure on the heads of the Conservatives for continuing with the Labour party policy as laid out on page 4:3 of their 2010 manifesto Labour’s big offer to Ealing is a review.

Ealing Central and Acton Labour candidate is even more confused in her leaflets.

Huq NHS pledge

She talks about “keep open our remaining hospitals”. Of course no hospitals have closed and none will. Hammersmith lost its A&E but will focus on being a world class cardiac hospital and will take cardiac emergencies. Central Middlesex will focus on elective surgery. The NHS has already promised that Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es will remain as they are for three years after Tory Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt’s intervention following representations from Angie Bray.

So Huq’s promise is to “fight” for what the NHS is currently proposing to deliver. Her number 1 pledge is to change nothing.

Ealing and Northfield Health, housing and adult social services

After five years of screaming blue murder over Labour’s own Nicholson Challenge Burnham offers us a “clinical review”

You might think that after five years of complaining about local NHS changes the local Labour types would expect some real meat from Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham when he came to Ealing on the eve of a general election and talked about changes to our local health system.

Labour NHS event 2nd May

On Saturday night (yes, this really is how Labour types spend their Saturday nights) Andy Burnham addressed a Labour NHS rally in Acton. You can see a photo here tweeted by Labour MP Andy Slaughter showing a nurse in uniform (not very appropriate), comedienne Jo Brand, “Dr” Rupa Huq, Andy Burnham and GP, BMA official and Labour zealot Clare “fear of annihilation” Gerada.

According to Slaughter Burnham said:

I am minded not to proceed with those changes (to west London A&Es). Will demand full clinical review.

Whoah! Strong language!

I am minded …

He doesn’t say: “I will roll back closures of Central Middlesex and Hammersmith A&Es.”
He doesn’t say: “I will keep the current A&Es as they are.”
He doesn’t say: “I will keep Ealing maternity services open.”

No, he says: “I am minded not to proceed with those changes.” But he would not, in law, be able to make any changes without proper process and evidence.

His call for a “full clinical review” is his real offer and is just silly. The Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF) programme was produced by clinicians and reviewed by a body (with clinical skills) called the Independent Reconfiguration Panel which reviewed it and passed it. The SaHF programme was never very attractive to Ealing residents and the only actor in this drama who has ever given us any respite is Conservative Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt who had representations from our MP Angie Bray and demanded that Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es stayed put.

Now after five years of Labour screaming blue murder Burnham promises us a review. Now we know from Burnham’s own mouth to his own people what his offer is. A review.

The most likely outcome from Burnham’s “full clinical review” is that it will find that SaHF is sound and let it roll on.

Labour has spent five years belly aching about the consequences of Burnham’s own £20 billion Nicholson Challenge and Burnham now promises a review. Talk about weak.

Ealing and Northfield National politics

Labour sloganeering on corporate tax avoidance – the Coalition has acted already

The Ealing Labour party seems to be pleased with its candidate’s stance on corporate tax avoidance. This rings a little hollow after 13 years of inactivity by three Blair/Brown governments. In the last budget Chancellor George Osborne introduced a well thought out Diverted Profits Tax, or as the papers dubbed it a “Google tax”. Maybe that is why Rupa Huq didn’t mention Google in her short list of avoiders.

Even the Guardian had to admit:

Few, however, deny his diverted profits tax (DPT) amounts to a pioneering and innovative effort to tackle big multinationals with aggressive corporate structures. The DPT, announced in December, will levy a 25% tax on profits that have been artificially moved outside the UK.

The Diverted Profits Tax should ensure that Vivienne Westwood has less cash to bung at the Greens at the next election.

Too often the Labour party poses and sloganises. This is just one of many areas where the Coalition has acted after Labour’s 13 lazy years in charge.