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Caroline Flint refuses to condemn Labour-run Nottingham Council over its intransigence on transparency

By Jonathan Isaby

ConservativeHome has already covered how Labour-run Nottingham Council is the only authority in the country refusing to publish online all spending over £500 (see here and here, for instance).

And the shadow leader of the Commons, Hilary Benn, has already indicated his support for Nottingham's intransigence.

Today, the shadow communities and local government secretary, Caroline Flint, was interviewed by Jon Sopel on BBC1's The Politics Show and refused to condemn Nottingham, despite numerous opportunities to do so.

Here's the exchange in full:

Sopel: You get a council like Nottingham where you, you know you're asked to produce… a list of what you spend above 500 pounds and the leader, Labour leader of Nottingham says I'm not doing that, it's a waste of time.

Flint: There's only one council that's decided not to do that and that is Nottingham and they'll have to answer for that, I do believe in transparency, and I...

Sopel: Do you think they're wrong?

Flint: believe in open-ness but to be honest, you know, that issue is a distraction from everything else that is going on because the real issues are the level of these cuts that local government is being forced to take 27%  cut in budget over four years, heaviest in this first year, so even where councils, you know, and Labour ones particularly, because they've been hit hardest, are trying to look at other ways to save money, and something like over 200 councils in our country already share back office functions, they are faced with very, very difficult choices, and these are choices that this government has forced on them, they are not choices of necessity.

Sopel: Okay, let me just try and get a word in, your colleague Hilary Benn has supported Nottingham council's stance.

Flint: Look, Nottingham council has to make their own decisions on this, what I can say to you

Sopel: Do you think they're right or wrong?

Flint: Well look, I support transparency, but to be honest, you know

Sopel: So Nottingham council is wrong?

Flint: Councils make their own choices, every other Labour council in the country has decided to put everything over 500 pounds on line, what I'm saying is that, you know, that is a distraction from the level of cuts that actually Nottingham is facing as well as other councils around the country, people are losing their jobs and they're losing their services and the government wants to distract from that.

Sopel: Just want to get the distraction over and done with, are Nottingham council wrong, yes or no, then we can move onto other things?

Flint: Well I believe you know in transparency and I go along with those Labour councils where they've decided to put them onto their on line systems but do you know what, this is also a discussion about central and local, and Nottingham has made its own choice in this, and to be honest, my priority is focusing on the decisions at a national level which are having a huge and terrible impact on the ground, including in Nottingham.


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