Senior local Tories 'wrote to PM over treatment by ministers'
MORE than 30 senior Tory councillors, including the leader of Derbyshire County Council, are understood to have written to David Cameron over concerns about the way his ministers are treating local councils.
County council leader Andrew Lewer would not comment on the letter directly, saying a national newspaper was "allegedly quoting a private letter".
But he added: "Central government and local government need to work together as never before to overcome the severe problems created by the deficit left by the last Labour Government.
"That requires respect on both sides and respect in particular for the achievements of councils like Derbyshire County Council in coping so well with these pressures.
"I feel significant progress has been made in deepening that respect this year."
The Daily Telegraph said the private letter urged the Prime Minister to stop "patronising language" being used to attack those "who work extraordinary long hours for our communities".
The letter, the article said, went on to say how ministers' rhetoric angered local Tory activists and that "many might not be there when we need them as electoral foot soldiers".
It said those who signed the letter included Mr Lewer and the Conservative leaders of Warwickshire, Essex, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and Durham county councils.
Senior figures including Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, and Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, have made outspoken attacks over the cavalier use of taxpayers' money by some local authorities.
The paper said the councillors added: "We believe it is essential to bring to your attention our concerns regarding some government policy affecting local government, the rhetoric that accompanies it and the effect it is having on our people. Importantly, it is not only the substance of such policy but also the nature and tone of constant criticisms of their work by Conservative ministers that is most worrying."
The report added that the letter shows dismay over the "apparent constant criticism" of local government for hindering economic growth.
Its said the councillors added: "Sometimes the criticisms even seem designed to deflect criticism from Whitehall departments."
On Wednesday, the matter was brought up by Labour MP Hilary Benn in the House of Commons during a local government finance debate.
He said the letter was proof that "the language ministers have used about those who are serving in local government has been frankly, extraordinary and offensive".
The leader of the county council's Labour opposition, Councillor Anne Western, said the letter should have "addressed the Government's devastating cuts to local government grants".