Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Council mergers: Labour hypocrisy?

Four Tories: Eric Pickles, plus Leaders of Westminster, K&C & H&F at their merger 
Remember the sound and fury generated by the merger of H&F, K&C and Westminster services? Education and others were placed under one executive leadership team and even the Chief Execs were slimmed down from three to one saving residents a "pot full of cash" according to H&F Tories last year.

At the time Labour in H&F were outraged, issuing public denunciations and warning darkly of sinister plans to somehow turn the new enlarged fiefdom completely Conservative by altering the electoral map of the new super-borough. Where would it all end, they asked? H&F Opposition Leader Stephan Cowan said at the time:
"I asked officials why these two boroughs were chosen to be H&F’s partners. It’s because the Conservative “politicians get on well with each other and have a lot in common” came the reply. That’s not the greatest of reasons. I can see the logic of sharing some services with Kensington and Chelsea Council – indeed; the last Labour administration did precisely that but not Westminster – especially given its difficult circumstances".

"So maybe there is some truth in the allegation that the overall objective for this merger is an attempt to gerrymander a more comprehensive political union between the three Conservative run councils and do away with current borough boundaries before the voters have a chance to kick any of them out at the next elections"? 
Beastly. But what's this?! Three Labour councils - Ealing, Brent and Harrow have just announced ... er ... a merger of services in order to ... er .... "cut costs". The three authorities, according to EalingToday, plan to "cut the cost of running libraries and leisure facilities"

According to EalingToday "The plan is to work with the two neighbouring boroughs to consider whether jointly running services would save money. The council will also consider proposals put forward by any charitable organisations".

Ealing Labour Councillor Ranjit Dheer, cabinet member for community services and safety, told the site: 
“We want to offer excellent services and are committed to investing to improve these facilities. We do however still need to reduce running costs for both our library and leisure services.

''We will now begin detailed work to see if entering into a joint contract could help cut those costs. We will look carefully at any proposals presented and are clear that we won’t do anything we don’t feel is right for Ealing.”
Meanwhile the Harrow Observer reports plans for a merger of NHS Hospital services across the three boroughs too. For similar reasons.

All sounds fair enough to me - but I wonder whether we'll hear wailing and the gnashing of teeth about this from Labour in H&F? I think perhaps we won't.


  1. Chris, sharing services is not new as Stephen Cowan stated in the quote above. The tories were discussing merger, which is a much more radical step with serious implications for local democratic control, so I think your accusation of hypocrisy is wrong... Iain Muir

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