Jan 22 2015

Coming to a Borough Near You: Anti-Government Propaganda

With the news that Lambeth Communications has won Harrow’s PR and Communications contract – worth between £1.5 and £3 million, depending what you read – here’s an example of what residents might expect to start seeing across the borough from next month. The contract, according to Alex Dewsnap, is to “manage the bad PR” around the impending cuts to council services. So, what did Lambeth’s Labour administration let their own PR outfit do?

20150122_pr_posterThat’s right. Spend residents council tax on posters declaring that cuts weren’t their fault, and blaming the Government.

Lambeth’s own PR outfit, Lambeth Comms, are moving into Harrow’s Civic Centre next month, so we can almost certainly expect similar posters to start appearing around the borough, bearing pithy quotes from Dave and Sach. Indeed, just about every one of Invisible Dave’s blog postings have blamed the Government for reducing the funding to councils, so we’re sure he’s got some snappy soundbites lined up.

Footnote: It doesn’t appear to have done any damage to Steve Reed – the then leader of Lambeth Council. Since 2012 he’s been a Labour MP for Croydon North, which is odd considering Labour’s view that “…none of us are interested in being political careerists who see a brief stint at their local authority as the fast lane to Westminster.


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  1. Bill Phillips

    Well, bleat as you might, the poster is also very true of Harrow

    1. iharrow.com

      It might very well be true, Bill. But that doesn’t mean I want a council to waste what little money it (apparently) has on posters proclaiming it.

      Any responsible administration would spend money where it’s needed – not on a PR stunt which won’t feed hungry children, which won’t provide school places, which won’t fix potholes, which won’t protect vulnerable people, which won’t, etc, etc, etc.

      But perhaps your priorities are different?

  2. Susan Hall

    Labours priorities are indeed very different Paul. After all we Conservatives removed the post of the Chief Executive making a saving of at least 1million over an administration. Labour saw fit to reinstate the position, just think where that 1m would go. Libraries perhaps or even remove the need to charge us Council Tax payers even more for emptying our brown bins. For those that have not signed that petition please go to https://www.change.org/p/harrow-council-drop-plans-for-75-brown-bin-charge-2

  3. sonoo malkani

    This is a scandal in the making and must be halted IMMEDIATELY.Anti-government posters or advertisements by Harrow’s Labour held Council is bang out of line since it is tax-payers hard earned monies being used inappropriately.They are not ALL: Labour supporters.

    They must pay for their own campaigning out of LABOUR Party/Union funds and not abuse the precious monies so badly needed to keep Harrow’s innumerable services up to scratch.What is the legal position on this?

    Somebody must make sure this is addressed urgently before Lambeth sends its Communications people to our Civic Centre to waste tons of OUR money on what sounds like LABOUR PARTY CAMPAIGNING WITH TAX-PAYER Funds—if we are expecting it to hear sound-bites from David Perry and Sachin Shah.

    We demand clarification about this from the person in charge of Communications at Harrow Council.NO ifs and buts just a STRAIGHT ANSWER.The public has a right to know what is going on behind their backs.

  4. Concerned Harrovian


    Bill Phillips is right the residents of Harrow are bleating as they are being made sacrificial lambs by his administration. Their council tax payments are being sacrificed to fund a political campaign. Bill Phillips is free to express his political opinions but not to use taxpayers’ money to campaign. I agree with the previous comments. If you want a political campaign use Labour party funds and not residents’ council tax payments. No political party, of whatever persuasion, should use council tax funds to campaign.

    I feel sure there are rules about campaign funds. Does any anyone know what they are and whether this expenditure is legal? Perhaps Sue Hall as opposition party leader could explain the rules on campaign expenditure? Paul, do you have any knowledge of what the rules are regarding expenditure on political campaigns?

    This money should be spent on libraries, keeping council tax down or not bringing in the brown bin charges.

    Also would it be possible to ascertain whether councillors are up to date in their council tax payments. I remember last year several councillors had to be REMINDED to pay their council tax.

    If the councillors who have paid their council tax make statements to that effect it should be possible by a process of elimination to work out who the culprits are. How dare they make any decisions on how to spend residents’ council tax when they were not current in their payments.
    Those guilty of this bad behaviour should hand their heads in SHAME!

  5. sonoo malkani

    Agree with Concerned Harrovian that it would be most helpful if the Leader of the Opposition party could enlighten us what the rules and regulations are regarding the legitimate use of campaign funds.Local citizens can hardly be expected to fund POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS of any sort.

    I would be most surprised if they allowed ANY PARTY in charge of any Council to use tax-payers’ monies,which after all is collected from people of ALL political persuasions,to blow the trumpet of the party running any Local Authority.That,surely,would be considered UNDEMOCRATIC.Please clarify.

    I can think of many deserving projects for funding–such as Carers,Disabilty and Vulnerable Groups,Libraries,Garden Refuse Collection etc.They are in line with public expectations of services for which we pay one of the highest Local Authority rates.

    I find it scandalous,as a humble pensioner,that I pay the same rates for my semi-detached house as my friend in Moor Park pays for her Five bedroom mansion and have the constant threat of CUTS to services.On top of it,we are being hammered with the Brown Bin Tax later this year—AFTER the General Elections.The public of Harrow will not be hood-winked so easily!

    It would be an eye-opener to find out,as suggested by Concerned Harrovian ,which of our Councillors have not paid their Council taxes to date.After all,us humble citizens are exoected to cough up on time!

  6. Susan Hall

    Please be assured Concerned Harrovin and Sonoo that my House Council Tax and Business rates are paid up to date. I will try and get the wording as to what we re allowed to do re campaigning allowances. I do assume however that Lambeth are allowed to advertise in that way.

  7. sonoo malkani

    Thanks Cllr Hall for a forthright answer.Hope other Councillors are inclined to be as upfront about this.

    Thanks also for looking into the wording re campaigning allowances.It would be most helpful to know what is allowed and what is forbidden.I am sure most citizens would be outraged if it transpired that our Councils ARE allowed to campaign in a POLITICAL fashion using tax-payer monies.Seems totally unethical.

    Lambeth seems to have got away with it.There must be some effective/legitimate way for ordinary citizens.tax-payers to forcefully register their protest,apart from demonstrations which tie up valuable resources.

  8. Concerned Harrovian

    Cllr Hall -thanks from me as well. We now need to hear from the other 62 councillors, and that includes the council leader, if they are current in their council tax payments.

    it would be helpful if if the rules on what councillors can campaign for is explained. As residents we need to hear in plain language what is allowed and what is not under the rules.

    Paul would you be able to ascertain from Harrow’s legal department what the situation is via a FOI?

    1. iharrow.com

      Wish I could, CH. Unfortunately the council have decided that my efforts to track down waste, inefficiencies and in the case of one of the Whitchurch school, unusual financial activity – have resulted in them ignoring me. Worse still, they are ignoring requests that I submit in my role as a Neighbourhood Champion, and not responding to those either.

  9. Someonewhocares

    Back on topic let’s see if we get the exact same ‘tough choices’ – in other words their ‘it’s not OUR fault’ campaign fonr these PR folks, and so they charge the Council (in other words US) £1.5 just for making some textual changes from ‘LAMBETH’ to ‘HARROW’?

  10. Susan Hall

    If you are interested in this I have a link that is explanatory :- https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/5670/1878324.pdf

    1. Someonewhocares

      Thanks SH, that’s an interesting ‘Code of Practice’ document, even if it is just a series of ‘recommendations’! Looks like the 2011 additions limit what ‘advertisers’ can say though as there are implications if such advertisers/councils try to make political remarks. Difficult to see how councils can make statements other than ‘It is Central Government who are to blame for cuts in services’ though and so difficult to see how any council could realistically spend &1.5M on this!

      1. Someonewhocares

        Just noted that in my first posting I had stated ‘£1.5’ and then in the second ‘&1.5’!
        Perhaps I just can not believe they can charge £1.5M for these kind of posters..

  11. Jake

    Why don’t we half the number of councillors? We don’t need so many in an era of Internet and mass communication. How many pointless councillors do we have in the country? We would save millions upon millions if we did away with a good chunk of them. And why in God’s name do we need 30+ Borough councils? Merge them.

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