Conservatives can ‘learn from’ local govt spending cuts

By Liz Stephens

Shadow chancellor George Osborne gave a speech today outlining what could be learnt from the experience of local councils.

Mr Osborne backed initiatives for sharing services between authorities and publishing spending details online, which have been trialed already by the Greater London Authority and Tory-run councils.

Tories are “rooting out waste and cutting costs,” he said.

In the speech, for the Conservative Councillors’ Seminar in central London, Mr Osborne stressed that a Conservative government would learn from local councils how to reduce administration costs in order to focus resources on public services.

“I want the Conservative party to learn from what local Conservative councils are doing right now, as they are dealing with many of the constraints that we may face very soon.

“When it comes to rooting out waste and cutting costs, or improving services through innovative new policies, Conservative councils are showing it can be done,” he said.

However, the speech came just hours after shadow home secretary Andrew Lansley told The Times that a Conservative government would only guarantee “small increases” to the NHS budget in comparison to Labour.

“We have trebled the amount taxpayers spend on the NHS but we have not seen a real return,” Mr Lansley said.

“We are determined to turn this situation around. The NHS, just like any other organisation in this recession, needs to focus on getting more for less.”

Only weeks ago the Tories had pledged that, although they intended to cut public spending if elected, they would protect overall health and international aid budgets.

Labour warned the Conservatives would cut spending on frontline services.

The row over public services spending between the Conservatives and Labour has escalated in recent days.

The government’s spending deficit is expected to reach £175bn this year.