Leicestershire CC leader David Parsons has come under further criticism from Local Government Association colleagues after leaders of all political groups slammed his call for fresh cuts to be made at the organisation.
The LGA’s executive met on Thursday to endorse the conclusion of the Getting Closer reorganisation programme that has seen staff costs cut by 45% and the number of full-time and contracted staff cut from more than 600 to around 270.
Despite playing a part in the reorganisation process, Cllr Parsons launched his bid for the chairmanship of the LGA this week with a call for further cuts to be made. The call prompted widespread criticism which continued at Thursday’s meeting.
Cllr Parsons did not attend the meeting, the first time he has missed the executive since October, and politicians from all political parties took the opportunity to endorse the Getting Closer programme.
In a thinly veiled attack on Cllr Parsons’ candidacy, Conservative group leader David Shakespeare – who has ruled himself out of the running for the chairmanship – said: “I’m totally supportive of the new sharper focus we have on members’ needs. We have driven out costs and the numbers are quite amazing.
“Without John Ransford and his senior management team, it couldn’t have been done,” he added. “But we mustn’t overcook it so we leave the association without the capacity to do what it needs to do.”
The sentiment was backed up by Labour group leader David Sparks who said: “As far as we are concerned in the Labour group, that’s enough. We need to get on with things and the organisation shouldn’t become a political football in an election campaign.”
Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added his voice to calls for a period of stability.
“We have agreed unanimously at every single stage the principles, the process, the strategy and outcomes and outputs of the Getting Closer programme,” he said. “It’s very sad that after two years of unanimity, the same people who took part – some would say played a leading part – in that process, now don’t think that process was correct.”
“Our staff have been through a hell of a lot and we need a period of stability,” he added. “If we cut down too far there will simply be no point being part of this organisation.”
Asked why he had not attended the meeting, Cllr Parsons said: “It is worth reminding ourselves that there is life outside London. I am very busy working with council leaders across the country on our plans for a radical transformation of local government and the LGA. I also have Leicestershire CC to run. Like many leaders, I suspect, I am working on a cabinet reshuffle following our annual council meeting yesterday.”
Announcing his candidacy earlier this week, Cllr Parsons said he would offer “immediate action to review and reduce subscriptions” and a “review of the LGA’s internal working practices, structures, budgets and contracts”. Speaking to LGC after the launch, he said he was “sure there are further efficiency savings to be made in the LGA” but admitted he had not identified any specifically.
After his comments were criticised, he said: “At least we know know where the opponents of change stand,” Cllr David Parsons responded. “The LGA has to change and officers within the LGA will have to change.”