I blogged a while ago about a boast by the Local Government Association that it hadn’t indulged in doomsday warnings about the impact of Government cuts ahead of the comprehensive spending review.
Very commendable, you might think, had not every other lobbying organisation gone and done the exact opposite. The result was a bloodbath kicking for local government, with many in town halls up and down the country angry at how the councils were to suffer more severe cuts than other sectors of government.
I argued at the time that perhaps now was the time for councils to question what value they get from the collective £14million they spend on subscriptions to keep the LGA going, not to mention the many millions more on conferences the LGA puts on. After all, it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of town halls to effectively lobby their local MPs.
Now, with the horse bolted and the stable door still swinging back and forth, the LGA has finally indulged in a bit of doomsday predictions, claiming 140,000 council jobs will go – many more than estimated by Government.
The reaction of Eric Pickles, the community secretary has been swift:
“I have seen better figures put together on the back of fag packet,” said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
“This is not original research. This is a collection of press releases and the Local Government Association doesn’t know what the level of the cuts are going to be or how they are going to be delivered.”
Ouch. Presumably some of these press releases have been published in the council newspapers which the LGA has strived to defend, but which Pickles has now banned.
There can’t be much worse for an organisation which is supposed to be a voice for a group than to be dismissed out of hand so quickly by a minister.
If the LGA was a private lobbying firm brought in to fight for a company, it’d have been sacked by now. It clearly isn’t being taken seriously at all. Not paying the LGA every year wouldn’t solve the cash crisis – not by a very long way – but it’d certainly save a few jobs.
All of which makes it so much more important that council press officers try and work closely with the local Press to get their points across.