Published Monday, 14 February 2011
Labour councils are shedding on average 50% more posts than Conservative authorities as they deal with funding cuts that significantly outstrip those of their Tory and Liberal Democrat neighbours, the Guardian has found.
Labour authorities have issued on average 745 job "at-risk" notifications, compared with 498 and 414 respectively from Tory and Lib Dem councils.
The figures are the first to confirm that Labour councils are making bigger cuts and appear to bolster claims by David Cameron and Nick Clegg that Labour councils are cutting and then blaming the coalition for "politically motivated" reasons.
However, the Guardian's analysis also reveals that Labour authorities are suffering the worst budget cuts, with a 7% reduction in "spending power" on average, compared with 5% in Tory areas and 6% in Lib Dem areas.
Last week coalition ministers accused Labour of making political capital out of the coalition's actions. The PM said "we are seeing politically motivated moves by Labour councils". This came after Manchester announced 2,000 redundancies in what local government minister Grant Shapps called "a cynical move by a Labour council intentionally cutting frontline services and playing politics with people's lives".
The Guardian analysed the political control of every council that has issued warnings of post reductions, as recorded by the GMB union. The research shows that Tory councils have issued 47,853 such notifications – 40% of the total cuts, which is lower than expected as the party controls 52% of all councils.
By contrast, Labour-controlled councils have issued 35,031 notifications, 29% of the total, while the party controls only 16% of all councils. Lib Dem councils have issued 7,866 – 6.6% of the total when the party runs 7.9% of all authorities. The figures do not account for the widely differing size of councils. Labour runs many large urban authorities, but the Tories are in control of most of the big county councils.
The figures also reveal the disproportionately big cuts that Labour councils face. Overall spending power will be reduced by 7% for Labour councils, 6% for Lib Dems and 5% for Tory-led ones.
The communities department refused to comment directly on the figures, saying the GMB statistics were disputed.
But Shapps said: "This is naked political opportunism by Labour councils. Using the cuts as a political football to hammer hard-working members of the public is irresponsible and shameful.
"I hope Caroline Flint will come out and condemn such action. We believe that if councils merge back-office services, join forces to procure, cut chief exec pay and cut out the non-jobs, they can protect frontline services."
Flint, the shadow communities secretary, said the figures showed that Labour councils were being forced to make redundancies and that the analysis "nails the myth peddled by Cameron, Clegg and Pickles that Labour councils are deliberately targeting vital services for political reasons". She said: "Councils of all persuasions are having to deal with the Tory-led government's decision to target town halls with reckless frontloaded cuts."
Manchester has been told it is losing 8.8% of its budget, the maximum announced by the communities minister Pickles. But the top 20 councils, in terms of post reductions announced so far, also includes two Tory authorities – Norfolk, which is cutting 3,000 posts while only facing a 2% drop in spending power, and Nottinghamshire, which is facing 3,500 job cuts and only a 3% reduction in funding.
David Sparks, the Labour leader in the Local Government Association, said: "There's a purely economic argument about why Labour are cutting more and it's because they have lost more of their budgets. There is no Labour council leader crazy enough to cut in order to make the government look bad – there are no gestures in this."
Richard Kemp, leader of the Lib Dems in the LGA, said: "If anyone is making political cuts, it is absolutely despicable and unacceptable. But I cannot see any council of any party choosing to make people jobless for the sake of it."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2011