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Tory claims that local authority debt levels are down to the profligacy of Labour members have outraged councils ac...
Tory claims that local authority debt levels are down to the profligacy of Labour members have outraged councils across the country.

In the latest evidence that the Conservatives intend to target local government during the general election campaign, Steve Norris of the party's central office local government campaign team pinpointed Birmingham City Council's£1.2 billion debt.

Mr Norris said the debt figures were 'the clearest possible evidence that, as ever, Labour say one thing but do another'. He also picked on Newcastle upon Tyne City Council (£441 million), Salford MBC (£371m) and Crawley BC (£113m).

Mr Norris said the figures melted Gordon Brown's image as the 'iron chancellor' and showed 'New Labour means new spending and new debt'.

The offensive comes three weeks after environment minister Sir Paul Beresford was accused of misusing DoE debt figures by discussing them with newspapers before they were officially placed in the House of Commons library (LGC, 24 January).

Birmingham leader Theresa Stewart said: 'Every year, with mindless regularity, the government bring out the same old lies and half-truths.

'Every penny of our debt has been borrowed with government sanction . . . We have in the process accumulated assets worth£3.2bn, almost three times the debt.'

Ms Stewart said Birmingham's debt worked out at£1,196 per head, compared with Tory-controlled Kensington and Chelsea LBC's£1,364.

She said central government itself topped the list of debtors, with debts of£5,700 per head accumulated to 'subsidise day-to-day revenue spending'.

Oldham MBC leader John Battye said his council's£1,200 per head debt level had been sanctioned by the government and had gone towards capital investment, often in partnership with the private sector.

Kent CC was last week incensed that former treasury chief secretary Jonathan Aitken attacked the council for its debt levels during a Commons debate. It says much of its£452m debt is attributable to road schemes approved by the previous Tory administration.

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