COVENTRY council’s Labour leader Ann Lucas has been accused of making “disrepectful” remarks about a large number of city people and voters by launching a scathing attack on the “outraged” middle class.
Coun Lucas fired a broadside at a full council meeting last week against “Mr and Mrs Middle Class” who were unhappy about cuts in their communities, which she herself opposes and blames on the coalition government.
Her comments have now been branded “disrespectful” and “distainful” by opposition Conservative leader, councillor John Blundell.
Former Coventry City Council Conservative leader councillor Ken Taylor said it was typical of her “them and us attitude.”
A member of her own Labour group has privately complained about her remarks, saying she was speaking about many potential Labour voters in national and council elections in May, in which her colleagues fear Labour will lose several council seats over plans to build homes on Greenbelt.
Speaking with the Coventry Observer, Coun Blundell said a large number of Coventry people considered themselves to be middle class, or aspired to be middle class.
He said they were entitled to oppose proposed Labour council cuts to services such as libraries, which Labour council leaders themselves have said they could be forced to impose, whichever party or parties form the next government.
Council leaders are planning budget cuts on the expection that government funding cuts to councils will continue until at least 2017/8 whoever is in power at Westminster, with only a half of the national deficit cut so far.
Coun Lucas told last Tuesday’s budget setting council meeting: “I want to give credit to a government that have peddled the most successful lie ever. ‘Vote for us and we’ll solve all the problems because of austerity and we’ll take all the money away from all those scroungers.’
“We didn’t get the message over that it will save diddly squat. What will happen is austerity will hit you.
“Yes you, Mr and Mrs Middle Class, who are outraged at the thought that we’re having to pull services in because you can’t get your path laid or your road resurfaced – (Ironic gasp) – Oh, how dare we? What’s all this about? It’s about austerity folks.”
Coun Blundell (Cons, Wainbody) said: “It was strong stuff from her. She was being distainful at what she considers to be the middle classes.
“It is disrespectful to a large number of people in Coventry. Many people think of themselves as middle class.
“I think she’s got it into her mind that when they talk about protecting vulnerable people, if you’re middle class or aspire to be middle class, you don’t count.”
He accused her of effectively attacking many of his constituents who signed a petition against the potential closure of Finham Library, which provided a range of crucial community services for people from all backgrounds.
Coun Blundell added that ruling Labour councillors had publicly mooted closing libraries and most council services in most communities under their ‘City Centre First’ proposal, and had still not identified which might close from next year.
He said Labour government frontbenchers were committed to continuing public spending reductions including welfare cuts to further reduce the national deficit arising from when Labour was in power before 2010.
Coun Taylor (Conservative, Earlsdon), said Coun Lucas’s comments were typical of her “them and us”, “management and workers” attitude.
He added: “The world is changing… We (the council) provide services for all areas of Coventry whether it’s Earlsdon or Holbooks (Coun Lucas’s ward) and they equally deserve the same support from the council, including on libraries.”