Wednesday really wasn’t a good day to be David Cameron.
First he was labelled stupid, for failing to realise what his cuts to local government funding actually meant.
Then he was called a hypocrite, for claiming that Oxfordshire County Council – his own local authority – should not cut particular services; services that were only endangered because of his cuts.
Now – most seriously – he has been accused of breaching the ministerial code, by offering help to the same authority that could only be provided by the prime minister, while corresponding with its leader in his capacity as a constituency MP.
There is a strict rule that ministers may not use the resources afforded to them as members of the government to provide preferential treatment to others – such as special access to top advisers.
David Cameron has been accused of offering a Conservative council chief special access to No 10 advisers as a way to resolve a disagreement about proposed budget cuts.
The prime minister is facing questions about his conduct after he wrote to Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire county council, chastising him for considering cuts to day centres, libraries and museums. Cameron’s own constituency of Witney falls within the area.
In the letter, Cameron extended an offer for how to help to manage the cuts, saying he would be happy to “initiate a dialogue” with the No 10 policy unit about the possibilities of devolution deals and suggesting that Hudspeth contact his aide Sheridan Westlake, who used to work in the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Jon Ashworth, a shadow Cabinet Office minister, has written to the civil service chief Sir Jeremy Heywood asking for advice on the propriety of Cameron offering extra help for Oxfordshire.
He points out that the letter appears to have been written by the prime minister in his role as a Witney MP, even though the ministerial code states that he must keep separate his government and constituency role.
“Is it the case that if the prime minister has made this offer of ‘further dialogue’ available to the leader of his local county council, similar offers should be made to all the leaders of other councils?
“Surely the leader of the prime minister’s county council should not be given preferential treatment?” Ashworth writes.
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: