Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Red box responsibility

After last weekend’s Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, there has been a spate of articles about "Lib Dem ministers want the red box but not the blame". Now some might argue that these allegations are only being made by their political opponents. But this is clearly not the case.

Actually, the most significant attack on Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrat Ministerial colleagues in the Conservative-led government coalition came from Liberal Democrat MPs – including the Party’s President - and party members in the North of England who spoke out about the fundamental unfairness of the government’s policies. In particular, they were angry about the massive scale of the shift in resources from poorer, urban areas in the north to wealthier, rural areas in the south.

I’ve been accused of banging on about this issue for the last three years. So, all I can do is welcome this new support. In fact, after being so quiet and acquiescent to date, the northern Liberal Democrats were positively shouting about the unfairness of it all. They even went so far as to publish a report “Grim Up North” to support their case.

Actually, when I say northern Liberal Democrats, I’m not being entirely accurate. There was unanimity from northern Liberal Democrats, except for those from South Yorkshire and Chesterfield who remained completely silent. Surely this couldn’t be because they’ve chosen sycophantic loyalty to Nick Clegg and his red box over standing up for their local communities?

Council funding is only one example of the unfairness. Of the 50 councils that have faced the smallest cut in their budget, 46 are in the south. More remarkably, every one of the 10 least-cut councils is in Surrey. This is particularly astonishing as there are only 10 councils in Surrey.

And the difference isn’t small. Whereas Sheffield’s government funding is being cut by more than £230 p head between 2010 and 2016, Surrey councils are being cut by less than £2 p head.