THE MP for Thurrock, Jackie Doyle-Price rose on the floor of the House of Commons as part of a debate on the financial problems at Birmingham City Council.
Ms Doyle-Price said: “The problems we face in Thurrock have emerged over the past 10 years, during a decade in which Thurrock has been dominated by three-party politics and a succession of minority administrations in which the UK Independence party held the balance of power. Being brutally frank, it was impossible to make financial cuts or to increase council tax, which has led us to our current situation.
In the light of the best value inspection, which found that the position had been exacerbated by annual elections and constant electioneering, will my right hon. Friend consider whether those lessons need to be read across local government? I remind him that, going back as far as 2019, previous Ministers, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the National Audit Office all warned Thurrock of the recklessness of its policy, yet councillors and officers failed to act. Do we need to consider statutory powers for a sanction in those circumstances?
Michael Gove replied:
“My hon. Friend makes a series of very helpful points, and she is right. Obviously, it is not my role or responsibility at this time to interfere in the calendar of elections that local government has enjoyed, acquired or inherited over the years, but I agree that, wherever possible, we should move away from annual elections. Indeed, the work to change the electoral geography and timings in Liverpool has been helpful. She is also right that the particular political dynamic in Thurrock created difficulties, and how we hold people to account in future needs to be reviewed.
My hon. Friend has been a consistent voice in challenging underperformance at Thurrock Council, and a brave voice in attempting to face down populism in her constituency, in order to do the very best for her constituents.