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.

 

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.