Croydon’s Labour council’s controversially political posters, which claimed that the borough has been hit by £100-million-worth of central government cuts over the next three years, were not just tax-funded propaganda. They were also inaccurate, according to Nathan Elvery, the chief executive of the council which published them.
According to figures provided by Elvery, Croydon Council’s grant from central Government over the next three years – from 2015 to 2018 – actually represents a cash cut of £55 million.
The ill-judged and inaccurate posters were removed last week, ostensibly because they were in breach of election law, with a council by-election in Selhurst coming up next week.
In a response to Inside Croydon, Elvery reveals that the cumulative cuts in central Government grant to Croydon since 2010 until the end of the 2014-2015 financial year will reach £40.8 million. An attempt is made to increase the figure by adding on £27 million for what Elvery calls “damping”. But even that leaves the council’s figures a very long way short of the £100 million figure quoted on the posters which his own local authority published this month.
Added together, and even including £50 million of the council’s notional “damping” amounts, the reduction to Croydon’s grant from central government amounts to £147.5 million over the course of eight years since the ConDem coalition assumed power – 2011-2018.
But that was not the figure, nor the timescale, chosen by Croydon Council to be used in the controversial posters.
The posters stated, “Government is cutting its funding to you by £100m over the next three years”. Elvery’s own chart shows this to be a gross exaggeration.
In standard Croydon Council “transparent and open” fashion, where no one is ever held responsible for their actions, Elvery has refused to answer our questions about who wrote the deliberately misleading copy or who signed-off on the error-strewn posters.
Elvery’s figures are taken from the council Budget, which was presented at the Town Hall on Monday.
There is little doubt that the ConDem Government’s cuts are immensely damaging to the services provided by local government, and that Croydon appears to have been given an especially harsh settlement. It is also clear that the burden of these austerity cuts have been passed down the line to local councils by Chancellor Gideon Osborne and his fellow Cabinet posh boys, so that the hardships and political problems which they create are shouldered not by central government, but at borough and district level, where there are few options available to make good the short-fall since a 2 per cent cap on Council Tax increases has been imposed. Not that Labour, at national level or at Croydon Town Hall, appears willing to oppose the Tory austerity narrative.
But what is also clear is that, however you slice Elvery’s figures, there has not been a £100 million cut in government grant to Croydon, as his own council’s posters falsely claimed.
According to Elvery, the council spent just £795 on its “awareness raising” posters, although this may be only the price of hiring 60 sites around the borough, rather than reflecting the full amount of council staff time and expense in drafting the copy for the posters, designing them and the print costs.
Elvery was ostensibly responding to questions from Inside Croydon which included:
- How many posters have been put on display around the borough?
- Who wrote the copy and oversaw the design for these posters?
- What is your justification for spending your ever-reducing council budget on political propaganda? And…
- How much does it cost for the council’s CEO’s office to respond to each email sent to the CEO’s office, as suggested by the MP for the Whitgift Foundation?
We put similar questions to the leader of the council, Labour’s Tony Newman, who receives more than £53,000 in allowances as an elected representative but who, despite having up to four council staff working in his personal office, has not yet even had the common sense, let alone common decency, to acknowledge our enquiry, never mind attempt to respond to the questions.
In continuing to seek answers to our original email, we have now given £180,000 public servant Elvery an additional question:
Will he be issuing another poster that apologises for and corrects the factual error in the first?
- To read Croydon CEO Nathan Elvery’s full reply, click here: Elvery letter Feb 2015
- Town Hall’s propaganda posters may re-appear as leaflets
- Poster propaganda prompts MP Barwell into another costly error
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
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