Simon Hughes has come out in support of severe cuts to local council spending for the next financial year, according to a letter obtained by the News.
The Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP had been approached by Cllr Fiona Colley, Southwark’s cabinet member for finance, who asked him to join the council in opposing “the unfair scale and distribution” of the cuts.
However, Hughes rejected this proposition and replied: “I do not believe that Southwark Council has been disproportionately impacted by changes to local government finance.”
Southwark will be the third hardest-hit council in the country in terms of spending power reductions for 2015/2016, which will see £160.62 lost per household.
The MP’s refusal to oppose the cuts was criticised by Cllr Neil Coyle, who will challenge Hughes for his parliamentary seat in May’s general election.
Cllr Coyle said: “As a Southwark councillor I have fought for local residents against Government cuts to our borough.
“Simon Hughes should be standing up for Southwark and pushing his Government colleagues for fairer funding for his constituents, but instead he is defending cuts that have seen every household in Southwark lose £155 this year, while some Tory boroughs have actually seen increases in their spending power.
“Simon Hughes says he’s on the side of local residents, but he has proven time and again that he is really on the side of David Cameron and the Tories. Residents in Bermondsey and Old Southwark need an MP to stick up for our area – Simon Hughes has let people down.”
Hughes refuted these claims and told the News: “Labour councillors appear to think the people of Bermondsey and Southwark have very short memories. Local residents remember that Labour left behind a disastrous economic legacy.
“Despite that, Labour-run Southwark council has the second highest spending power of all London boroughs – and the fourth and sixth highest on two other well-used measurements. The council is also sitting on total useable reserves of £253 million. These facts simply do not support the claim that Southwark is being treated unfairly.
“Local people will not be deceived by Mr Miliband’s local Labour representatives into believing that the Labour party – who were in national government for thirteen years until 2010 – had nothing to do with the catastrophic economic recession.”