Fact Checker

Intro:

Richmond Borough residents will go to the polls on 3 May 2018. 

During the campaign each party will try to persuade voters with many claims. Richmond Borough Conservatives have taken the approach to be positive about our borough, but also to be straightforward with residents about the challenges we face, and where we as a Council can improve our service for residents.

However, too often claims are made during campaigns that don’t ring true, and then go unchecked.

This fact checker website has been created for residents to check key election issues, and to get a clear and concise answer that is based on fact. To help set the record straight, please share these articles so that others may also see the facts.

Manifesto Positions Of The Three Main Parties On – Weekly Collections

 

Conservative Pledge: We will protect weekly rubbish and recycling collections for all four years.

Labour: No mention in their manifesto, but they reference flatlining recycling rates

Lib Dem: Weekly doorstep collections of waste and recycling will continue unless you tell us you want a change

Fact: Only the Conservatives are guaranteeing to protect weekly collections. The collections contract is due for renewal halfway through the next term, so a decision will have to be made. The local Conservatives made this pledge in January, so it was well known as an election issue by both opposition parties. By not mentioning it in their manifesto, after expressing concern about the cost of this promise in a Council meeting, Labour are leaving the option open to change it. The Lib Dems are playing both sides, but by their own manifesto wording they will consider a change. They give no details about what "unless you tell us you want a change" means, and do not qualify their other pledges in the same way. After making this manifesto pledge, and only two weeks before the election, the leader of the Lib Dems questioned the cost and the consequences of keeping the service (see below from Twitter – 18/04/18). These are not questions from a party leader intent on retaining the service, or understanding the pledge he himself made to keep the service “unless you tell us you want a change”. So there is purpose in the phrasing they use. This leaves them open to ask residents an indirect question like "Should we try to increase recycling rates" when the contract renewal comes up to justify the change. The local Conservatives, and the other parties, are committed to increasing recycling rates further and most people will agree if they are asked the question. But that does not mean they want to lose weekly collections. This is how the Lib Dems justified their unpopular CPZ tax in 2006.

 

Only the Conservatives are guaranteeing to protect weekly collections for all four years.

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Lib Dem Leader tweet on weekly collections, two weeks before the election:

For info – the answer is that weekly vs fortnightly costs up to £1m extra a year, equivalent to a little less than 1% of Council Tax, and it is already being paid for, ie. already in the Council budget. The reason Richmond can afford it is the local Conservatives took the bold step to share staffing with Wandsworth, saving £10m a year.

 

Manifesto Positions Of The Three Main Parties On – Investment In Pavements And Roads

Conservative Pledge: Massively increase investment to bring ALL pavements and roads up to a high standard in five years

Labour: Don't mention it

Lib Dem: Pavement repair must be based on need, not the unfair ‘Village Planning’ lottery scheme; We will address the growing issue of potholes and look to fix them as soon as possible and

consider road resurfacing over repeated mending of potholes

Fact: Only the Conservatives are pledging to (massively!) increase investment. This is a major financial pledge in the Conservative manifesto. Despite the Conservatives tripling investment over the previous administration when taking control, it’s an issue where residents are telling us they want to see more done. So we are making a very big commitment. Labour have not committed to it, and the Lib Dems only talk vaguely about how they would use whatever money is dedicated to roads and pavements.

Only the Conservatives are making this very significant pledge to bring all pavements and roads up to a high standard.

 

Manifesto Positions Of The Three Main Parties On – Protecting Our Sixth Forms

Conservative Pledge: Preserve choice and protect our sixth forms against an opposition that consistently opposes them

Labour: Don't make the commitment, and say the sixth forms prevented the Council from expanding our existing schools

Lib Dem: We will support the existing 6th forms and work with all existing institutions who provide post- 16 education to ensure a broad choice of academic subjects and vocational qualifications t local students in a plurality of settings - school and college sixth forms and tertiary and FE colleges.

Fact: The Conservatives introduced the sixth forms in the face of long term opposition by the Lib Dems. There are now approximately 1,000 students in these new sixth forms. It was also the Conservatives that helped enable the rebuild and regeneration of Richmond College. Labour, perhaps because of their defections from the Lib Dems, make no commitment on sixth forms and only propose to support the college. The Lib Dems have purposely put in the word “existing” 6th forms, and “existing” institutions. Fortunately, the existing 6th forms are in academies that the Lib Dems would not control if they were voted in, so they can only influence them indirectly. But they have consistently opposed them, with their leadership calling them "a Tory Vanity Project", and an "unsustainable extravagance". In explicitly committing to support only the existing sixth forms, they transparently leave open the question of whether they will:

   - oppose through planning a sixth form at the Mortlake Brewery School, thereby making it less attractive, having to draw students from a wider area

   - oppose through planning a sixth form at Turing House - this should worry Turing House parents

   - not support a sixth form at Twickenham School when it recovers from the Lib Dem's Kunskapskollen experiment, which Vince Cable said had failed

The Conservatives introduced the sixth forms, only the Conservatives will protect them, and only the Conservatives are pledging to support them in our new secondaries.

CLAIM: The Gazette Was A Local Newspaper

Fact: The Liberal Democrats, having made “Tackling Town Hall Secrecy” one of the five points in their plan for the borough, put out a heavily partisan “Richmond & Twickenham Gazette” purporting to be a free local newspaper. It was only the very fine print on the margins of the back page that gave residents any indication it was a partisan publication from the Liberal Democrats. The correspondents were all Liberal Democrat councillors or activists. The lack of transparency was heavily criticised here https://order-order.com/2018/03/20/fake-libdem-newspaper-lies-richmond-twickenham-voters/

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CLAIM: It Is A Two Horse Race – Labour Voters Should Vote For The Lib Dems

Fact: The Liberal Democrats have told Labour voters that their votes are “wasted”. Yet, the former Leader of the local Liberal Democrats disagrees, saying “only the Labour Party can provide the alternative”. His recent statement made in defecting to Labour is here

Moreover, the Liberal Democrats are not running a full slate of candidates. In wards where they do not have three candidates, they are joining forces with the Greens. Here is a statement from the national Green Party when it was suggested they should join forces with Labour

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/05/green-not-uniting…

CLAIM: Council finances are out of control as demonstrated by rising debt

Fact: In making that claim, there was no statement about what the debt was for, nor any statement that the Council was still able to freeze Council Tax for six out of eight years.

The local Conservative led council in Richmond has invested £350m in the Borough, including significant investment in school expansion, rebuild, and the re-introduction of sixth forms, regeneration of our towns and villages through the successful Uplift programme, and tripling spending on pavements and roads. It is correct that to achieve this substantial investment in the Borough the Council has borrowed but this has been managed within the budget, and enabled by prudent management of the Council’s finances.

After the claims about high borrowing were made, the approach to invest at times of low interest rates was then endorsed by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, in a local government magazine article here:

https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/LGA%20FIRST%20617%20Nov17.pdf

 

CLAIM: Child poverty is at a crisis in Richmond

Richmond’s Lib Dem Leader in an email sent to residents on February 18 alleged that 7,520 children in the Twickenham and Richmond Park and North Kingston constituencies live in poverty, calling it “Richmond’s shame”.  He carelessly overstated the number having apparently confused Richmond’s parliamentary constituency, which includes parts of Kingston, with the London Borough of Richmond.  The correct number from the source he quoted is 5,970 and it was later revised when reproduced in the Lib Dems’ newspaper – the Richmond and Twickenham Gazette.  However, this measure is being quoted without explaining how it is computed.

Children living in poverty is a statistical measure based on whether their family income is less than 60% of the median household income.  As this is a statistical definition, unless everyone earns the same, some families must have an income that is less than 60% of the median level and a proportion of children will therefore live in relative poverty.

In an ideal world there would be no pockets of deprivation, but the Lib Dems should have explained that the measure is used to compare areas.  By virtue of its relative wealth, Richmond has the lowest rate of Child Poverty anywhere in London by some way (15% after allowing for housing costs and compared to 53% in Tower Hamlets).

Child poverty, creating equal opportunity, and helping struggling families is a serious issue which all parties strive to address and improve. Over half of Richmond Council’s budget is spent on Social Care, for example. Parties do not always agree on the methods, which is of course why different political parties are formed.

But meaningful debate on those methods, including whether to have higher or lower overall Council Tax increases, and an understanding of the true differences between parties are only possible with an accurate representation of the facts.

 

CLAIM: The Council Failed to Collect £8m On Behalf Of The Community From Property Developers And Has Only Spent £0.8m As Part of the Village Planning Process

Fact: The £8m is a figure determined by the Liberal Democrats with no explanation and without clarifying what is a debt to the Council still due to be paid. They have been directly told by Council officers that their statement is incorrect and that the money is not lost. Yet they have chosen to continue providing a misleading figure to residents, which they have determined, for pure political gain.

The Council collects Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) from developers for new developments. This is a statutory requirement and the Council began administering the Mayor of London CIL in April 2012 and its own Borough CIL in November 2014 Amendments to the legislation and changes to the regulation since that time have resulted in different CIL values being owed on some developments.  CIL becomes due when building starts but the amounts change if the development changes and this requires the final amount of CIL to be adjusted. Because the regulations are complex all Councils are facing these issues. The final values are owed to the Council, and where not yet paid, remains outstanding.

The Liberal Democrats also claim that of the £6m so far collected of CIL, only £0.8m has been spent as part of the Village Planning Process, in the form of the Village Planning Fund. The Village Planning Fund, projects which are proposed by the community, are by law 15% of the CIL collected (or 25% where a Neighbourhood Plan is in place) and we are one of the few Councils that has given the community the opportunity to fully participate in how this money is spent.  The rest of the money is used for larger infrastructure improvement for projects on a Regulation 123 List (see: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/media/11607/regulation_123_list.pdf)

So with rounding and carry over, the £0.8m that has been spent is BY DEFINITION how the system should work. Yet by only giving part of the picture, the Lib Dems are falsely leading residents to believe the whole £6m should be spent through the Village Planning Fund. This is incorrect.