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Labour won't reverse further council spending cuts if it gains power
LABOUR will not halt a further £2bn of looming local council cuts if it wins power, Ed Miliband warned yesterday – as he also poured cold water on rail nationalisation.
Quizzed by delegates at the close of the party’s conference, the Labour leader said he was “fearful” about the future for town halls, as their budgets are slashed.
In July, George Osborne slashed council funds by a further ten per cent, from 2015 – on top of the loss of 33 per cent of their grants between 2011 and 2015.
The Conservative-led Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that every local council in the North-East is in danger of going bust, because they will again be hardest hit.
But, in Brighton, Mr Miliband said Labour – which has pledged to stick to the Coalition’s spending plans in 2015-16 – would not be able to halt those further cuts.
Instead, he pointed to an overhaul of all public spending, work which would continue after a Labour victory in the May 2015 general election.
Mr Miliband said: “This is the harder bit, because I can’t promise easy answers on this “I know way local government has been decimated by this government, but we have got a proper review going on to shape spending into Labour priorities - and that’s what we’ve got to go “I’m very fearful, as you are, about what is being done to local government, but we’ve got do that work before we get into government – and, indeed, once we get into government – to work out how we spend money better.”
The comments came as controversy continued to rage over Mr Miliband’s surprise pledge to freeze gas and electricity bills for 20 months, from May 2015.
The Labour leader released a letter he had sent to the energy giants threatening to “take action” against them if they tried to hike prices ahead of his promised freeze.
And he said: “I've written a letter, this morning, saying there's a crisis of confidence in the system.
“It's time we fixed it and they can either choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. I hope they choose to be part of the solution.”
The energy firms have reacted with fury to the plans, warning he is risking power blackouts and sending a message that Britain is not open for business.
They have also accused Mr Miliband of threatening much-needed investment in green energy - while rightwing newspapers attacked a 1970s-style lurch to the left.
In Brighton, the Labour conference voted unanimously to renationalise the rail network, if Mr Miliband wins power in 2015.
The leader appeared to suggest that was not in his sights, saying: “We can only make commitments that are properly costed.”
And Labour sources went further, adding: “Renationalisation is not our policy. Conference is entitled to its view. We are not going to spend money we do not have.”
Labour is opposing the re-franchising of the state-owned East Coast rail line, which the Coalition plans to force through before the next election.
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