Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Betts rubbishes Clegg’s claims on Council budget

Clive Betts MP has rubbished the assertion by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP, that Liberal Democrat controlled Sheffield City Council is making fewer cuts in services and jobs than comparable authorities.

Clive Betts said today:

“Nick Clegg seems to have brought the same level of accuracy to his claims about the real effect of Sheffield City Council’s budget as he did to his assertion last week that pensioners will not receive less Winter Fuel Payment next winter than they received this year. Neither stand up to scrutiny.”

Clive Betts set out his analysis in a speech in the Budget debate and in an Early Day Motion. [Set out below]

In particular, Clive Betts focused on:

  • Nick Clegg’s assertion that Sheffield City Council was only losing 200 jobs – when the Council’s own website confirms that 737 jobs are going. Further
o     these job losses do not include those being made by out-sourced services – including all sport and recreation, museums, refuse collection and benefit administration;
o    these job losses don’t include those in voluntary organisations whose budgets are being cut by 15% by the Council;
  • Nick Clegg’s assertion that ‘no libraries are being closed’, when the Libraries’ budget is being cut by £1.3m. It is already known that several mobile libraries are being cut, but the Liberal Democrats have decided not to announce where the rest of the cuts will fall until after the local elections;

But even more importantly, Clive Betts said that the Council was front-loading the use of the Council’s balances, which means that even bigger cuts will be required for the 2012/13 budget.

Clive Betts said: 

“Even the Council’s Chief Executive and Executive Director for Resources stated in the budget report that the Council is running down reserves to a low level given the scale of risk in the 2011/12 budget. 

It is inevitable that the new political administration – of whatever make-up – will have to start quickly making additional cuts in expenditure in 2011 to enable a lawful budget to be set in 2012/13.”

Clive Betts continued: 

“Further, there has been little comment on the massive cuts being made in the Council’s capital expenditure which will fall from £322.6m in 2010/11 to £61.3m in 2013/14.

This more than 80% cut will be felt most keenly in the private sector, especially the construction sector in the city.

The last Labour government had to spend a decade trying to deal with the Conservative legacy of huge under-investment in housing, schools and hospitals.

Given the scale of the capital cuts, it is inevitable that a future government will have a new legacy                     of failure to address.”