Nick Clegg's laughable claims damage Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats are sometimes accused of cynically manipulating politics in order to gain power.
It's said that the party's representatives at Westminster and on local councils will promise people in one street or neighbourhood one thing, while setting out exactly the opposite policy a few yards down the road. Anything to get elected, seems to be the watchword.
While this image may be exaggerated in some cases, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has hardly helped his party's image by issuing a number of, frankly, risible comments and claims when asked to comment on the political situation in Birmingham -
His suggestion that the Tory-Lib Dem coalition running the city council since 2004 inherited huge levels of debt from the previous Labour administration is complete nonsense. It did not. It could not have since the government did not begin to allow councils to get hold of more money under the prudential borrowing scheme until after 2004.
The fact is that council debt has more than doubled in the five year's since Mr Clegg's party got its hands on the tiller in Birmingham.
Mr Clegg cannot successfully distanceLiberal Democrats from the city council's alarming ÃÂ£2.4 billion debt, which is the equivalent of ÃÂ£2,000 for every man, woman and child in the city. The Liberal Democrats must take equal responsibility with the Tories for pushing through a number of high-cost projects including the library, the Olympic pool, the pay and grading review, elderly person's care homes and council housing improvements.
Some of these schemes were to be partly paid for by selling land and property, but the recession put paid to that.
As for Mr Clegg's attempt to attract votes by committing a Liberal Democrat government (no chance of this happening, then) to cut the pay of any local government official earning more than ÃÂ£100,000 by 25 per cent, this kind of thing might go down very well in lounge bars across England but it would prove very difficult and hugely expensive to achieve in practice.
If any government were to attempt such a thing it would be interesting to work out additional costs in terms of buying out contracts, compensation, redundancies and early retirement. The country's town hall high-earners would be laughing all the way to the bank.