LAMBETH UNDER FIRE – ONE: “RESIGN” CALL TO LAMBETH LABOUR LEADER – Funding cut is only 20.4 per cent, not more than 56 per cent say Tory opposition (AND THERE’S NO PUBLIC APOLOGY FROM CLLR BENNETT)
Lambeth Labour council leader Lib Peck has been told to resign over continuous claims that the council budget is being cut by more than 56 per cent – when the actual figure is just over 20 per cent.
The call comes from Conservative opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs who demands her resignation “for the inappropriate behaviour of the local authority trying to gain political advantage by using public resources to create propaganda around a lie.”
In an open letter Cllr Briggs says: “The Labour administration cannot expect to gain the trust of the people of Lambeth until it apologises for carrying out such a fundamental deception regarding the financial management of the borough, and institutes changes.
“The Conservative opposition group therefore calls on the administration to apologise to the people of Lambeth, and for you to resign as leader, so that another Labour councillor untainted by this scandal can try to bring some integrity to the leadership of the council for the remaining period up until the 2018 elections.”
The open letter reads in full as follows:
Dear Cllr Peck,
Re: Open Letter – Evidence of Labour’s deception regarding government funding
Attached to this letter is a spreadsheet confirming the deception that there has been a cut in the Lambeth council budget of over 56 per cent.
At the end of 2014, when council officers and Labour councillors started mentioning an estimated 56pc reduction in funding over the period 2010-18, you correctly described this estimate as the percentage reduction in the core government grant to Lambeth from central government.
Labour councillors and their spin doctors in the Policy and Communications Department appear to have then thought that they could have more political impact by falsely describing a ’56 pc cut’ being ‘to their budget’, or to their ‘funding’.
In the Labour administration mouthpiece Lambeth Talk* in February 2015 you state that there has been a ’50 pc cut to our funding’.
“Six seconds into the controversial short film made by Lambeth council in March 2016 we are told: ‘The government has cut the money it gives us by 56pc’.
“Even recently in December 2016 in Lambeth Talk you spin that there has been an ‘unprecedented 56pc Government cut in our funding.’
“And after ignoring angry objections from opposition councillors, every email sent from council officers still has a mandatory link taking you to a page of Labour propaganda which states that Lambeth has had a ’56pc cut overall… one of the deepest in the country’.
“The spreadsheet from council finance officers makes clear that the actual figure, when all sources of income are taken into account, is a reduction in funding since 2010 of only 20.41pc.
“This figure is not five pc less than the figure put out by the Labour administration, or even a huge 10pc difference. “It is a huge 35pc difference.
“The opposition group has repeatedly said in full council meetings that from our calculations the percentage reduction is likely to be just over 20pc, a reduction which can be easily absorbed by a council as wasteful and poorly managed as Lambeth, but have been shouted down by the huge majority of Labour councillors trying to bully and intimidate the remaining opposition councillors.
“It is completely inappropriate behaviour for a local authority to try to gain political advantage by using public resources to propagandise an untruth.
“Labour councillors have relied upon this lie to close libraries and blame someone else for their mismanagement, they have used it to pretend that a ’56pc cut’ somehow affects the Housing Revenue Account so they have to demolish the estates which they have failed to repair and mismanaged for years,
“And they have used this lie to deflect blame from their responsibility for the poor procurement and management of services across the borough from adult social care to rubbish collection, from which residents suffer daily.
“The Labour administration has form on telling fibs, with its often-repeated claim of ‘22,000 homeless’ in Lambeth.
“After a recent Freedom of Information request it became clear that of that 22,000 people on the housing register, only 6,000 of that 22,000 are actively bidding to be re-housed.
“And no-one has been removed from the housing register since January 2013 – allowing Labour councillors to pretend there is a homelessness crisis in the borough.
“Call these deceptions what you will, ‘post-truth, ‘alternative facts’. We prefer to call them what they are: lies.
The Labour administration cannot expect to gain the trust of the people of Lambeth until it apologises for carrying out such a fundamental deception regarding the financial management of the borough, and institutes changes.
The Conservative opposition group therefore calls on the administration to apologise to the people of Lambeth, and for you to resign as leader, so that another Labour councillor untainted by this scandal can try to bring some integrity to the leadership of the council for the remaining period up until the 2018 elections.
Councillor Tim Briggs
Leader of the Opposition
(Lambeth council and Cllr Peck have been asked for a reply to Laura Swaffield’s comments. If we get one, we’ll let you know – Ed.)
(*Note: Lambeth Talk is described by the council as its “monthly magazine for residents. “It brings you news about things happening in the borough, features about local service, a guide to local events and interesting articles about a range of topical issues.
“It is posted through the doors of 130,000 Lambeth homes and businesses each month and is produced by the campaigns and communications team on behalf of Lambeth council.” – Ed.)
AND THERE’S NO PUBLIC APOLOGY FROM CLLR BENNETT – Lambeth opposition leader slams Labour
Lambeth council’s Labour group were slammed at last week’s council meeting over the lack of a public apology from Cllr Matthew Bennett following comments he made about the Conservative opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs at their previous meeting in October.
Cllr Briggs told last Wednesday’s meeting: “We were told yesterday that the group now did not want to read out an apology from Cllr Bennett at this meeting, but instead have the Mayor basically say ‘We have emailed an apology and it will be printed in the minutes’.
“We said that Cllr Bennett should make an apology in full council as the allegation was made in full council, or someone on his behalf – if he wasn’t quite up to it himself.
“If the Labour group did not want Cllr Bennett to make an apology, then that was their decision.
“After all, the begrudging apology Cllr Bennett posted on Twitter at 10.30 on a Sunday evening looked like it had been extracted from him. “And despite me refuting the allegations at the last meeting, Cllr Bennett chose not to make an apology at the time.
“We are now in a position where no apology has been made either in person or in this chamber.
“When I was challenged in the council chamber by Cllr Simpson to make an apology over getting my figures wrong for the extra £100m given to Lambeth by Conservative central government to put in new kitchens and bathrooms in council homes,
“I apologised, in the council chamber, because it was the right thing to do – but also because I hoped that people would think better of me for apologising than if I had kept quiet, or made a half-apology.
“But this Labour administration thinks that it can always either cover up its failures, either in part or completely, or spin the blame onto someone else.
“How can anyone trust an administration that won’t admit that it has made a mistake?
“What hope for people having their homes demolished?
“What hope for people whose libraries are being closed or turned into gyms?
“Also what weakness from the Labour leadership, what poor decision-making, to not require a proper apology to be made, but instead allow this whole matter to drag on.”
Earlier at Wednesday night’s meeting the Mayor of Lambeth Cllr Cllr Saleha Jaffer had read out the following statement: “At the last meeting a reference was made by Cllr Bennett to the effect that Cllr Briggs was not a qualified solicitor.
“It has been established that this was incorrect and Cllr Bennett has apologised to Cllr Briggs fo the error. “The apology will be attached to the minutes of this meeting.”