A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about councils looking to pass the buck for necessary spending reductions. Lambeth council put posters up carrying the slogan "The Government has cut our money, so we are forced to cut services". Today, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles came out strongly against such overtly political ads, calling them a “blatant misuse of public funds”. And they absolutely are; Lambeth’s poster cost them £600, plus lost revenue of not renting the advertising space.
DCLG also announced crackdowns on council newspapers and lobbyists. This is more good news – council newspapers provide direct competition to local media, affecting genuine scrutiny and accountability of the local authority. Plus they cost taxpayers money; they’re easy fat to trim.
Taxpayer funded lobbying is a particularly egregious practice, and we would like to see a complete end to this practice. Taxpayers pay for government to lobby government for more money, and pay handsomely too, as our research paper last year showed.
On today’s news, TPA Director Matthew Sinclair said:
"Councils claiming that they need to cut frontline service would have more credibility if they weren't wasting money so extravagantly. Council newspapers that are an exercise in propaganda rather than honest journalism are a particularly awful example of town hall waste. The posters in Lambeth are a disgrace, and reflect a local authority that is more interested in making political excuses than working to deliver greater value for taxpayers' money, which other London boroughs have shown is very possible. Councils should work to cut spending on bloated bureaucracies, not lazily try to throw blame around as a decade of profligacy comes to a painful end."