Local Government Finance

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 6:52 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Andrew Pelling Andrew Pelling Independent, Croydon Central 6:52 pm, 3rd February 2010

I am extremely interested to hear that similar projects are being pursued elsewhere in London. It has always been a great weakness of local government and local councillors that they are obsessed with the grandiose, and with aggrandisement at home in the town hall, when it is services that are important. It is wrong that services are being cut back at the same time as such new projects are being taken on. This loan with the Public Works Loan Board is in place, but it has not yet been drawn down. Will the Minister have an opportunity to assess whether this really is appropriate behaviour? I know that our appropriate approach is to say that local authorities should be given discretion to make their own mistakes, but I think that this mistake will fall very heavily on Croydon council tax payers in future, particularly given that the local authority refuses to provide much detail on what the contract involves. It has been taken out in partnership with John Laing plc, which is no longer a public company-it is in the ownership of a private equity fund. Bearing in mind the difficult state in which private equity finds itself in terms of financing from the City, this is a dangerous circumstance for the local authority to have involved itself in.

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