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Council cuts? Blame Gordon Brown, says top Tory

Mundell: Residents believe Camden Council could be more efficient

26 April, 2018

David Mundell joins local candidates Kate Fairhurst and Oliver Cooper

CONSERVATIVES say the government cannot be blamed for cuts to council services because their party is still trying to clear up the financial mess left by Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister who lost power eight years ago.

This was the message from Scottish secretary David Mundell, who joined local Tories on the campaign trail ahead of next week’s council elections in Camden. Asked by the New Journal how candidates could explain an £80million cut to Camden Council’s budget when quizzed by voters, Mr Mundell said: “There have been tough decisions made in order to ensure we live within our means. It’s a relatively short time ago that Gordon Brown and Labour took this country to the brink of bankruptcy. Of course, it’s been a tough job to bring things back into kilter.”

Mr Mundell, known as “Fluffy” by his parliamentary colleagues, join­ed the Conservative canvassing operation in Belsize and Swiss Cottage wards on Monday, becom­ing the latest in a series of government figures to arrive on the patch in the run-up to next week’s polls date. The elections come after four years in which rivals at the Town Hall have disagreed over who is to blame for deep cuts to public spending at a local level.

Labour council chiefs have regularly claimed decisions to cut services locally have been guided by the reduced funding offered by central government. “Often a lot of decisions that councils make are options and they choose, they’ve chosen certain cuts that they’ve made over other things and they have to account for that,” said Mr Mundell. “It’s not the government that determines what happens at a local level. It’s partly responsible on funding but decisions on how that funding is used are made at a local level. People I’ve met today wouldn’t accept that there aren’t efficiencies that the council could make in the way that it operates.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson, justice secretary David Gauke and MPs Chris Philp and Cheryl Gillan have already helped out in wards targeted by Labour. This week, doorstep teams were sent out with thousands of election scratchcards – a new take on campaign literature – which revealed what they say are Labour’s “broken promises” in Camden.

One manifesto pledge that was not kept was the removal of universal weekly bin collections, which has become a key tenet of the Tory campaign. Labour says the change in pick-ups was needed to save money but also to boost low recycling rates. While certain wards are said to be a close call, Tory insiders believe they can hold seats at the Town Hall if they can “get out the vote” of natural supporters.

Mr Mundell hinted at the need to combat election fatigue. “We had two general elections within two years, and you’ve got to work hard to convince people that local elections are important,” he said.

“Many people don’t realise that actually the council takes some of the more important decisions that affect their day-to-day life. That’s part of the message we need to get over to people: voting in local elections makes a difference. There are a lot of other things going on in the world, but part of the canvassing today is getting it into people’s minds that elections are next week.”

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