Tuesday 16 April 2013

H&F Labour's War On Waste Will Keep This Inept Conservative Run Council On The Back Foot

Incompetence and waste: Hammersmith and Fulham Council
eventually handed itself over to HMRC while admitting it had been
operating outside UK tax laws because of the Conservative
Administration's self-confessed "carelessness" with public money
Fourteen months ago, at last year’s budget meeting, the public nearly got their first glimpse of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives’ 2014 election narrative. The visual was a large black solid circle photocopied onto A4 paper. All the Borough’s Conservative councillors filed into the chamber clasping their copies which they quickly stashed out of sight under their desk. Their plan was to orchestrate a synchronised raising of their sheets at a signalled point during the evening. Some clearly imagined it would be hilarious - unable to curtail their sniggering and offering up sneak previews of their papers across the council chamber. But the call never came and this silly stunt was never activated.

The problem the Conservatives had was that my Labour colleagues and I spent that evening underlining how we would root out waste, cut council taxes and only make funding pledges that were properly costed and rigorously tested. The Conservatives' mood slumped even further when we listed some of the incompetence and waste of millions of pounds of public money which had gained them notoriety in the national media and been investigated by the UK tax authorities. We called for a war on waste. By the end of the evening, a glumness had settled over the Conservative group. Their “Labour’s black hole” argument had been proved to be really rather daft.

Fifteen months have passed and as the election approaches H&F Conservatives will undoubtedly try and wheel out that nonsense again. It won’t work and not just because it isn’t true. It will fail because my Labour colleagues and I will set out a thoroughly costed plan that will deliver on our tax cutting and manifesto commitments and we do that against a back-drop of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives’ increasing reputation for financial incompetence.

Consider that in the last eighteen months Bob Neill MP (Con) (one of their own local government ministers) accused our Tory councillors of “slackness” after it emerged they had wasted vast amounts of tax payers' money. Or, that in the last six months the Borough’s Conservative Administration wrote to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs service to plead that they had been “careless” with tax payers’ money which is the best excuse they could agree on after being caught out operating outside UK tax laws. Regular readers will recall how this Conservative Administration has been exposed in countless national media for wasting millions of pounds on unorthodox uses of consultants – many of whom are retired local government officers wrongly working as “consultants” so as to not forfeit their generous pension payments. And how our council has the accolade of having both too many and having the highest paid senior bureaucrats in the UK. There is much more and it is insightful to their attitude that they okayed a £7,000.00 Monday afternoon booze-up for a favoured local government employee and did that in these austere times.

There needs to be a change and cutting council waste needs to be central to the changes this Borough needs.

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