“Join us” offer from opposition.
The Conservative leader of a major metropolitan council has bitterly condemned his own government and MPs’ policies of cuts as the ‘death knell of local government’ and warned it will lead to electoral disaster, according to Labour leaders.
Walsall Councillor Mike Bird’s attack on David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s coalition policies came in a BBC radio interview where he defended proposals that will slash millions from the authority’s children and social services departments – a move that has led to the Labour opposition leader on the council inviting his veteran Tory rival to change sides.
The council is desperately trying to rebuild its children in care service which was condemned as inadequate by government inspectors which is has already overrun its budget by £3 million. It now faces another £19 million in cuts next year; part of an four year £100 million reduction in crucial services including those for the elderly, disabled and struggling families.
Asked to defend the coalition government’s policy of cutting funding to local authorities on Radio WM, Cllr Bird savaged his own party and Conservative MPs, saying: “I’m not happy with the government’s proposals. I think they are sounding the death kneel of local government across the country.”
He went on to warn local Conservatives will pay the price for Tory MPs policies, who he also claimed ‘vanish’ after being elected. Hitting out at Prime Minister David Cameron’s policies he said; “Local government are doing central government’s dirty work. We are getting the blame; local councils are getting the blame. We are the ones doing the hard work at the coal face but sadly the MPs will come along and put their arms around us about 2015 and ‘Ohh I’m sorry you all lost your seats will you come and help us delivery leaflets so we can get elected’ and disappear for five years’.”
Welcoming his comments, local opposition councillors said they fear Cllr Bird’s remarks are a cynical attempt to avoid defeat at upcoming local elections.
“Mike Bird, working with local Liberal Democrats, has pushed through massive cuts in Walsall and has defended them and other cuts to vital public services,” local Labour leader Tim Oliver explained. “He has championed benefits cuts that have seen low income families suffer and taken £18 million out of Walsall’s economy this year alone. His sudden concern has more to do with the fact that he and his local Lib Dem coalition partners are terrified of the angry of voters who seen jobs lost, wages fall, prices increase and services disappear.
“If he is truly horrified by his own government’s policies I look forward to seeing him resign from the Conservatives and applying to join Labour, but I’m not holding my breath.”