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Lib Dem council leaders attack Pickles over spending cuts

Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the Lib Dem Group on the Local Government Association has evidently been busy. There is a letter (£) in The Times this morning from 88 Lib Dem council group leaders attacking the Government. The letter says councils are "being let down by the Communities and Local Government Secretary."  It adds that "cuts will have an undoubted impact on all frontline council services, including care services to the vulnerable."

The personal attack continues by saying:

"Unfortunately, Eric Pickles has felt it better to shake a stick at councillors than work with us."

17 of those signing are Council leaders. It should be noted there are over 40 Lib Dem council leaders so they not constitute a majority. Cllr Kemp's powers of seduction did not work for the two Lib Dem boroughs in London, for instance. Or the leaders of Sheffield, or Oldham, or Stockport or the directly elected Mayor of Bedford.

Yet this still constitutes a major rebellion by prominent Lib Dems against their own Government. Perhaps the most significant Lib Dem rebellion since the Coalition was formed. The leaders of Hull, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Warrington, Cambridge and Portsmouth have all signed up.

Eric Pickles actually praises local councils frequently (eg here) - many of whom have avoided cutting the front line. But his criticisms will naturally attract more interest. Cllr Kemp's letter is pretty disingenous in calling for better dialogue when he has indulging in playground abuse with references to "Laurel and Hardy" and so on.

The Lib Dem councillors who have signed the letter have done rather more harm to themselves than to the Secretary of State. For Labour councils to keep wasting money, cut services and blame the Government might make political sense - however cynical it is. But for a Lib Dem council to take this stance is political suicide.


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