Suffolk's maestro of spin

SUFFOLK county council's resources portfolio holder David Rowe spent 40 minutes last Thursday trying to convince journalists that the county's householders backed an 18.

By Graham Dines

SUFFOLK county council's resources portfolio holder David Rowe spent 40 minutes last Thursday trying to convince journalists that the county's householders backed an 18.5% rise in council tax because they wanted improved, quality services.

The basis for this assumption was a meeting of a specially convened residents' panel, who were taken to a day seminar, shown how the council works, and asked to outline what they would like their council tax spent on.

But in questioning, Mr Rowe had to admit that just 30 people sat on the panel – out of more than 220,000 householders in the county – and it was convened long before the 18.5% rise was proposed. The 30 later indicated they would still back the tax rise, hence the county council's strange statement that all of us in Suffolk thought an extra 18.5% was a wonderful price to pay for its services.


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However, what the Labour-Liberal Democrat run administration neglected to tell journalists was that in an opinion poll conducted by MORI during the summer among 3,529 residents, 59% indicated they wanted to "keep taxes and spending on public services at the same level as now" – that is, the current year's level.

The results of the poll, part of a Suffolk Speaks survey, were being withheld from publication until after the council meeting. It was only through the intervention of county councillor Joanna Spicer – who picked up the results of the poll at a Police Authority meeting – that they were made public.

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I don't know whether the Labour Party in Suffolk have been taking lessons in spin from Downing Street, but I'm sure Alistair Campbell would proud  of them.

Labour in Suffolk is deeply embarrassed that the Government deprived it of £12m and gave if to their friends of the north of England. But in no way being party political – the same applies to Tory controlled Essex county council that hiked tax 16.5% – Suffolk should remember the old philosophy "cut your cloth according to your means."

As a householder, I cut back if I don't have the money. So does my employer. Councillors can't keep being oblivious to the ability of people to pay – it's neither "courageous" nor "bold" to spend beyond their means and expect to pick up the tab.

IF it wasn't for the simpering support of Iain Duncan Smith, Tony Blair may very well not be Prime Minister now. It was Tory votes that saved Blair during the Iraq division in Commons last Wednesday – without those 150, he would have won by only 44 if they had abstained, and lost by 106 if they had voted no.

The Tories are linked inextricably with Blair on Iraq – they won't be able to cash in should if all go pear-shaped, and if the Prime Minister is hailed a conquering hero, they'll get no credit whatsoever.

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