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South Shields premier political blog

Sage, tuna, and Malcolm in the middle

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sir jeremy beechamWas Cllr. Iain Malcolm nobbled by an old mate?

Well thank heavens, ever since the Firefox browser was updated to v 3.6 my Sage RSS news and feed reader became incompatible, reading blogs and updated news stories became tiresome and hard work again, especially when you follow or subscribe to so many, thankfully the developers have written an update for Sage and it reinstalled itself to today and I can now sit here in South Shields easily reading the headlines before diving in for further details, life somehow feels better again

I’ve just enjoyed a very pleasant and tasty tuna pasta bake that Mrs. Curly lashed together for my lunch, although I shall have to walk away the calories later, but the odour seemed to linger, kind of reminding me that I wanted to say that something around here does have a fishy smell about it. Let’s work through this slowly, Cllr. Iain Malcolm, Labour’s leader in South Tyneside initially decided sometime in the past week to add his name and support to a letter objecting to Gordon Brown’s proposals for adult social care (the idea that each will receive personal one to one care), the letter being circulated in an email had cross party support throughout the country from a large number of councils. It outlined the various councils’ opposition to the government’s proposals in the Personal Care at Home Bill calling them:

“unclear, unfunded and are likely to have a significant impact on existing local services, including possible cuts and rises in council tax”

The signatories went on to add:

“What we cannot support, however, is a piece of legislation that has major weaknesses and risks adding further strain to an existing system already under considerable financial pressure.”

They all knew and understood that the government is requiring local councils to make substantial costs savings, yet intended to hammer them with additional bills with this proposed legislation, it just didn’t make sense, hence the support for the letter to the Times hoping that Brown and his ministers would take notice.

The Times passed the letter on to government officials this Tuesday and within minutes some of the signatories were asking that their names be withdrawn from the letter, including South Tyneside Council Leader Iain Malcolm, who The Times spoke to at 7:15 pm on Tuesday. It seems that some of them had an email asking for this action yet the emails all appeared to have the same format, the same text, the same fonts and typeface, looking suspiciously like an organised campaign perhaps?

Ominously David Cameron the Conservative Leader knew that the letter had gone from The Times to the government and he was to respond by asking questions about it at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Gordon Brown’s team will have had advanced warning of the questions from the Opposition Leader a day or so in advance in order to allow the Prime Minister to be briefed, yet oddly a number of the leaders of Labour led councils decided to change their minds and NOT attack Brown’s new policy after being contacted by the former Labour leader of Newcastle City Council Sir Jeremy Beecham who is leader of the Labour group on the Local Government Association. How did he get to know about the letter?

He said he did not know where the information about The Times letter had come from and denied that he had had any conversations with Downing Street or Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, about the issue.

He said it would be “perfectly normal” for a special adviser to have contacted the Labour group and informed them about the letter. He insisted that the Labour leaders contacted were notified about the letter but were not instructed to withdraw their signatures.

Cllr. Iain Malcolm told The Times that the decision to remove his name was entirely his own and that he was unable to to explain why his e-mail was identical in wording and style to other retractions.

Still sounds fishy to me – do you think the government could possibly use sources within the LGA to propagate it’s own agenda by trying to wrong foot David Cameron? Do you think that it is right for council leaders to give support to concise objections one day and withdraw them shortly after, or are they painfully aware that none of Gordon Brown’s proposals are likely to reach the Statute Book in any case?

Think I’ll have another portion of that tuna!

Update

Iain Malcolm tells me that the letter was signed by Cllr. Emma Lewell, the council’s lead member for Independent and Healthy Lives, and when he found out he had her name removed, more here. So that clears that up then!

Err….well, not quite.

The Northern Echo has this:

On February 9, at 7.22pm an email was sent to The Times from council leader Iain Malcolm saying Coun Lewell “has informed me that she wishes to withdraw her name from the list of signatories calling for an independent review of the Government’s proposals on the Personal Care at Home Bill.”

Yet in The Times and The Shields Gazette Cllr. Malcolm is quoted as saying that the decision was entirely his own, hmm, he either decided entirely on his own, or following Emma Lewell’s wishes, or perhaps even someone else’s wishes, who knows?

Cllr Malcolm insists that the version of words used by The Times is correct, but he has also been elevated today and became a target of Guido Fawkes.

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Written by curly

February 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

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