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?
Further to our post yesterday on quotes invented by the Daily Mail, the Scrapbook team have been poring over the details of the more amusing cases released by the Press Complaints Commission; David Blunkett’s dispute with the Sheffield Star is one of them.
The member for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough and former home secretary claimed that the paper had endangered his security in February 2010 by publishing “information about the whereabouts of his Derbyshire home” in an article on MPs’ expenses.
Rather than publishing his full address, however, the paper merely revealed the name of the village in which he lived (already widely known in the local area) after it was briefed to them by, erm, one of Blunkett’s own staff.
Any Sheffield residents anticipating the arrival of the phone hacking scandal in South Yorkshire must have been sorely disappointed.
Chris Grayling is facing calls for a sleaze probe over potential breaches of the ministerial code after the DWP minister named a £28,000 donor to his private office as a preferred bidder on government contracts worth millions. This week’s development is not without irony, however, given Grayling’s previous role as one of the Tories’ main attack dogs on breaches of the ministerial code!
After Cherie Blair undertook a lucrative speaking engagement while her husband was still prime minister in 2005:
“It was always quite clear to me that Mr and Mrs Blair did not break the ministerial code, they were certainly acting in breach of the spirit of the code.”
On David Blunkett failing to follow procedures on appointments for former ministers in 2005:
“I am astonished that Mr Blunkett has broken the Ministerial Code on yet another occasion. This is getting beyond a joke.”
Accusing Gordon Brown of a breach in 2007 over ministerial travel:
“Relations between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have deteriorated so much that he’d rather break the ministerial code than formally notify his neighbour about his overseas travel.”
On the removal of a ban in the ministerial code to allow ministers to sit on company boards:
“Gordon Brown promised to restore trust in politics. Now the small print shows he’s actually watering down standards of ministerial accountability.”
Any information on the whereabouts of Chris Grayling’s high horse will be gratefully received.
It may have something to do with Westminster’s exodus for Cliff Richards’ villa a yacht in Corfu the outskirts of Dear Old Blighty, but Scrapbook can’t help noticing the number of bloggers on the airwaves of late. Tory Bear’s hour-long LBC love-in with Red Ken on Saturday morning was followed by the appearance of not one but three online hacks on Radio 4′s Westminster Hour.
Media fixture Iain Dale was joined by Hopi Sen and Stephen Tall for a 20-minute discussion focusing on the government’s first 100 days. With Messrs Hutton, Field, Milburn and (possibly) Blunkett taking the Con-Dem shilling it may seem that Gordon Brown’s “big tent” has given way to a more substantial construction.
The recent influx of Labour talent, anathema to the 30 former front benchers found surplus to coalition requirements in May, was lamented by Iain Dale in particular. This blogger has only just got around to listening to it on iPlayer but found this (frustrated) interjection amusing:
Stephen Tall: Personally, I’m in favour of this big and expanding tent. I think it’s good for [interrupted]
Iain Dale: It’s a marquee!!
Perhaps silly season is getting to us but we couldn’t resist extending the metaphor:
Were Simon Hughes and David Davis spied near the guy ropes clutching scissors?