While Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has attacked the Coalition for cutting state spending, a new analysis of council figures suggests that Labour’s own local authorities are hoarding cash instead of using it to keep services open.
Grant Shapps, the Conservative local government minister, accused Labour councils of “totally unacceptable” behaviour and urged local authorities to be more willing to spend their reserves.
Labour responded by accusing the Tories of attempting to “divert attention” away from the Coalition’s decision to hit local communities with “the worst cuts in a generation”.
Reduced budgets for local services, including childcare, libraries, road maintenance and street cleaning, are expected to be a key consideration for voters at next month’s local elections.
According to the Conservative Party analysis, Nottingham is increasing charges for adult social care, reducing highways maintenance and reducing support for jobseekers, while sitting on cash reserves of £50.7 million.
In Liverpool, the council’s cash reserves are increasing to £121.7 million – enough to build four new secondary schools – while nurseries, libraries and leisure centres are stripped of funds.
Labour-run Lambeth council, in south London, one of the poorest boroughs in the country, is expected to be closing libraries but has reserves of £93.7 million.
Mr Shapps said it was “totally unacceptable” for Labour councils to make “political cuts” while sitting on vast cash reserves.
“People will rightly be shocked that Labour councils have billions stashed away when they hear stories of cuts to local services,” he said.
“Sensible financial planning is about putting cash away when the sun is shining so you have some cover during the rainy days,” he said. “Thanks to Labour’s deficit, it is now pouring. These reserves exist to ensure councils can react to unforeseen situations like clearing up the economic mess left by Labour.
“They should learn from the Conservative councils across the country who are finding innovative ways to save local taxpayers money while delivering more for less’.