Nick Clegg’s grasp of economics has been called into question after he was found to have exaggerated the level of Sheffield Council’s cash reserves by more than £120m in an attack on his own city’s leaders.
In an open letter, the Sheffield Hallam MP accused the council of sitting on £167m in “usable reserves” which could have been used to “protect front line services.”
While there is a line item in the city’s statement of accounts labelled “usable reserves” valued at £167m – Nick conveniently fails to mention more than £123m of that figure is already ringfenced or earmarked — mainly at a national level — for specific purposes, and can’t be spent on front line services.
David Blunkett, MP for neighbouring Brightside & Hillsborough constituency, told Political Scrapbook:
“I’m afraid economics and accountancy are not the Deputy Prime Minister’s great strength”
The “usable reserve” includes £57.2m reserved for capital projects, £14.4m which must be spent on social housing and £10.1m reserved to pay for repairs to buildings — all of which is required by national legislation. A further £42m is reserved under a variety of other mandatory earmarks.
Clegg’s £120m spin came in response to a letter in last Sunday’s Observer from a trio of northern council leaders, including Sheffield’s Julie Dore, claiming that Clegg had yoked himself to a brand of Conservatism with “no social conscience”.
If Nick’s so proud of Coalition investment in Sheffield, why would he need to fudge the figures to prove it?