BBC News Live: 15 March 2018

BBC News Live: 15 March 2018


Simon McCoy: That was Jo Black. Andrew Gwynne is in the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and joins me now. Pretty shocking state of affairs for any call for the abolition of a whole council. Andrew Gwynne: I think it’s virtually unprecedented, I’ve never seen a report like this or indeed like the KPMG auditors report from about a month ago. It’s very clear that Northamptonshire has been totally mismanaged by the Conservative administration, but the Conservative Government can’t be let off the hook either because they’ve let it get to the extent where a council has effectively declared itself bankrupt, and they’ve let this situation go unnoticed under their control. Simon McCoy: But isn’t this a local issue, and the report makes it quite clear, the council was pretty badly run throughout, and they were doing even the boring stuff badly. Andrew Gwynne: Well absolutely, and as I say, it’s a combination of mismanagement nationally where we will have seen by 2020 massive cuts in local government, there will be a funding shortfall across England of £5.8 billion, after almost a decade of austerity. And that is having an impact on councils of all political persuasions and complexions the length and the breadth of the country. But it’s worse because in Northamptonshire they’ve effectively followed the former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles advice and that was to diminish your reserves, to sell off all your assets, well of course you can only do both of those things once, once you’ve sold everything that you own, and once you’ve used all of your reserves you’ve got no more money left, and you have to make the tough choices that other councils have been making for the last 8 years. Simon McCoy: Northamptonshire points out that they are not the councils with these sorts of difficulties. Andrew Gwynne: Absolutely, and what’s frightening is that the National Audit Office only last week commissioned a report that shows that if the cuts continue from central government that around one in ten of England’s councils will be in a similar predicament over the next three years. It really is the case that children’s and adult’s services, the pressures that are increasing in both those areas, that most people don’t use, but they are vital local services, and are pushing councils towards the financial cliff edge. And unless we get more investment from central government to help fund local services, Northamptonshire will be the first, but it won’t be the last council to effectively go bankrupt. Simon McCoy: Andrew while you’re here, and I know politicians hate to hear that. With your Shadow Cabinet hat on, just wondering where you stand, we’ve had your leader Jeremy Corbyn today saying that all the evidence points to Russia being responsible for the Salisbury attack. We’ve had the Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith being much stronger and accepted Russia was responsible and saying Theresa May had done the right thing. Where do you stand on this? Andrew Gwynne: Well look, any chemical attack in our country should be condemned unreservedly, and we condemn it because it is an atrocious attack. What is clear is that the evidence points to Russia either being responsible or culpable, we support the measures that the Prime Minister has put in place, but we want to go further, we think there should be much stronger sanctions on financial transactions, making sure that Russian money is stopped in this country and that we have tighter controls on all of those mechanisms. So we do condemn what has happened in Salisbury, we support the Governments measures, but we want the Government to go further. Simon McCoy: Andrew Gwynne, you point the finger firmly at Russia. Andrew Gwynne: Well Russia is, and the Prime Minister has said this, and Jeremy Corbyn has acknowledged this himself. Simon McCoy: Well has he, he hasn’t gone that strongly. Andrew Gwynne: Well yes he has, if you look back at what he said in the House of Commons, if you look at the post he’s put on social media, we make it very clear that the Russian authorities are either directly responsible, or they are culpable because they have lost control of this chemical agent. In either respect it is something that ought to be condemned, ought to be fully investigated, and we ought to be using whatever sanctions are available to this country to make it very clear to the Russian authorities, that an attack like this in the United Kingdom is unacceptable. Simon McCoy: And given the severity of where we’re at, with what is a hugely important and significant international situation developing, do you now back the Government, is this now time for national unity if you like? Andrew Gwynne: Well, we’ve always backed the Government in the measures they’ve announced in the House of Commons. We think they should go further on things like financial sanctions, and we will support them to make sure that that happens. What is absolutely clear is from all sides of the House, and from the Shadow Cabinet and the Leader of the Labour Party, is that this attack is rightly condemned and we will do all we can to make sure that those who perpetrated it are bought to justice. Simon McCoy: Andrew Gwynne thank you so much for your time this afternoon. Andrew Gwynne: Thank you.

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