Monday 29 September 2008

Letter To The Daily Telegraph

Here's my letter to the Daily Telegraph after a rather misleading article appeared in it written by Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of H&F Council:

"Dear Editor

What would the press say about a national politician who tried to persuade the public that their tax had been cut by £350 when the annual bill had only really only been cut by £20.74 in the last year? I suspect their reputation for honesty or knowing what they are talking about would take a bashing. So why is local government different?

On 28th September, Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council made exactly that claim about Council tax in your newspaper. But, any study of H&F Council’s budget papers will show that it is blatantly not true - as you can see here on page 37. In fact, in 2006 Cllr. Greenhalgh inherited a budget from the last Labour Administration that would have seen some of the biggest Council tax reductions in the country - with real terms cuts in council tax each and every year up until 2009.

Greenhalgh’s boast about the Tory’s record on crime fighting barely stands up to scrutiny. In 2006 the Conservative’s took over from an Administration that had delivered the biggest fall in crime in London. But, Metropolitan Police figures for the last municipal year now show that H&F languishes behind Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Islington, Richmond and others after cutting Council funding to the ward with the highest rates of crime.

Residents don’t agree that services have improved either. Complaints are up about street cleaning and dog fouling. The Tories introduced a new £7.25 charge for removing garden waste – a service they themselves admitted was “chaotic” after a public outcry. In fact, the Conservatives have introduced over 570 inflation-busting charges on a range of Council services, with parking charges up 12.5%; meals on wheels charges are up 40%, there is a completely new £12.40 per hour fee for home care for local elderly, sick and disabled residents and children’s out-of-hours play services charges increase by a staggering 121%.

Youth centres, schools and homeless hostels have all been sold off as part of a new asset reduction strategy. Affordable housing is cut back on each new development and front line services such as highways maintenance, libraries, youth services and educational grants have all been slashed.

Greenhalgh’s self-proclaimed mission to create the "Borough of Opportunity" rings hollow when you consider all of the above. In fact, after awarding himself a 14% salary rise at the last budget meeting and admitting that his senior colleague had flown to the south of France to meet property developers so they could release “contentious development sites”, then it’s fair to ask who exactly is his “borough of opportunity” for?

I urge the national press to take a long hard look at local government. With Mr. Cameron making Stephen Greenhalgh head of his local government Innovation Unit it seems that Cameron may well take Greenhalgh’s advice and see Hammersmith and Fulham as a model for a possible future Tory Government. If this is the case, then it is hard to see how Cameron’s claims that the Tories have changed really stacks up.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Stephen Cowan
Leader of the Opposition
The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham"

1 comment:

dugdale said...

Where did they get their £350 figure from? A classic tale of Tory cut backs masquerading as 'efficiency savings'.