press index
Richard Slack
Market would cause chaos Waltham Forest Guardian November 21, 1986
Jim Youell's letter Waltham Forest Guardian November 21, 1986
Leyton MP refutes accusations on market Waltham Forest Guardian November 21, 1986
Council takes flak over market plan Waltham Forest Guardian November 28, 1986
Slack defends reasoning over Spitalfields Waltham Forest Guardian December 12, 1986
Rate increase unreasonable February 20, 1987
Opposition in Leyton Labour Party March 1987
What Richard had to say about 62% March 1987
Letter to Richard early months of 1987
Rates shocker: 'We're wrong' Waltham Forest Guardian May 29, 1987.
Ratepayers can challenge rise of 62 per cent Daily Telegraph, June 5, 1987.
4,000 stage singing seige at Town Hall London Daily News June 19, 1987
Labour man quits in rate rise protest Standard June 19, 1987.
Why Labour man quit over rates Evening Standard June 19, 1987
Town hall siege sing-in London Daily News June 19, 1987.
Councillor quits as campaigners stage demo Waltham Forest Express June 27, 1987
Revolt swells against rates Evening Standard July 22, 1987.
Councillor comes in from the cold Waltham Forest Guardian December 11, 1987

Councillor comes in from the cold

REBEL councillor Richard Slack is back in the Labour party fold.

Mr Slack resigned the party whip in June after his strong opposition to the 62 per cent rate rise in Waltham Forest was made public.

But now that ratecapping is upon the borough there seems no point in staying out in the cold, he told the Guardian this week.

"I've never disagreed with the party manifesto," he said. "What I thought was that we should be more realistic about our financial situation.

RICHARD SLACK: Independent but powerless. (x1oo8)

"But matters have moved along now and we are in a quite different political situation. I feel I can again support the party line.

"I said at the time of my resignation that I hoped I would be able to return one day."

Mr Slack made it clear that in his opinion an independent councillor was virtually a toothless creature.

"It is a fine and noble thing to sit there and vote as your conscience dictates. But you have no power to change anything."

As a group member again, he could voice his opinion if anything arose with which he disagreed and he would hope to influence decisions.

His renewed acceptance, of the party whip has been marked by his appointment to the land strategy committee.

Throughout his six months on the sidelines, he has remained a member of all the committees he belonged to before, except for the influential resources strategy committee, which he had to leave because of his stand on finances.

He has voted with the party on most issues, abstaining only when he felt a financial decision was wrong.

Whether or not he will go on to the political advances predicted for him in his early days as a councillor remains to be seen.

Council leader Neil Gerrard welcomed the news that Mr Slack had asked to come back into the group.

"It was his choice to leave-- we did not ask him to-- and it is his choice to rejoin. We are very glad."

Waltham Forest Guardian December 11, 1987


Nothing has as yet happened to convince me that my objections tothe proposed 70% rate increase budget are ill-founded. I still think thata budget increase of that magnitude under current circumstances isunreasonable, is bad management and totally short-sighted. I will takethe three reasons in turn.


There is very little to add to the mounds of words alreadywritten and spoken on this. Every household will need to find, onaverage an extra £6.00 per week at a time when inflation is low and wage rises small. We are likely to have twice the rate levels of neighbouringRedbridge and, although are services are better they will not be twiceas good in anyone's estimation. Most of the case work that comes my wayconcerns mainly housing allocation, housing transfers, improvement grants, availability of sheltered accommodation and environmentaltraffic problems; mostly schemes which require Capital resources whichare not there and which will be unimproved by most of the items added tothe budget* People will. however, be expecting a 70% improvement and itwill become increasingly difficult to explain why little can be done, Iwill accept the fact that the proposals I put forward later on will onlyreduce the rate increase by a bit, say a pound or two per week, but todo so would at least indicate that we are trying. To plough on in theteeth of massive outcry will appear damagingly arrogant.

Bad Management

The current problem springs from policy review. The decisiontaken to list priorities as A,B,C1 and C2 was a sensible way ofallocating priorities within committees. It did not sort out thedifferences between priorities across committees, in particular, ironingout the anomalies caused by the fact that some committees startingimplementing growth earlier than others and therefore had more "A"items.

This task of ordering priorities (which would have beendifficult and lead to arguments) was simply not tackled at all. At theend of policy review, following instructions from the LGC the bulk of Clitems were moved up to B and, at the budget meeting the remaining Clitems were added to the budget along with the As and Bs. In short, ourresponse to the problem of ordering priorities was to make everything asequal and urgent a priority as anything else. Ve may just as well notbothered with policy review as virtually everything the officers haveplaced in it has gone straight into the budget.

The officers have rather more perception of what rate-cappingwill mean to the Borough than the Labour Group has, they are determinedto puff up their departmental estimates as much as possible while thegoing is good. For this reason, instructions from us to look for savingshave been ignored. Officers will only identify savings when they need todc so to finance developments and they will not have the motivation todo so while we continue to play Father Christmas.



Barring a change in Government Waltham Forest will berate-capped in 1988/89 a decision to that effect being made in July ofthis year. The Government now regards GRE as a financial target and thedecision to rate-cap, and the level at which we will be rate-capped,'will be based on the extent to which the budget is above GRE. There isno reason to believe that the capping level will be made higher byincreasing the budget now. The proposed expenditure level will be nearly30% above GRE which is about 18% above the level which would, undercurrent rules, cause this Borough to be rate-capped. Twonewly rate-capped Councils, Newham and Brighton have had to reduce theirrates by 26% and 38% respectively.

In short, without a change in government policies, by thiscoming autumn, we will faced with a target budget figure severalmillions below the proposed figure for this year. We will have threeoptions;

a-Deficit budgeting. Since the debacle of 1985 this optionhas had a certain mythology on the left of the Party as one of thoseoccasions when a glorious victory was just around the corner but dashedaway by the right wing, the leadership or any other demon you care toname. In fact the deficit budget strategy is no strategy at all,consisting merely of underfunding the budget and waiting to see whathappens, the hope being that the potential deprivation of servicescauses Town Hall Workers and local people to unite together and demandmore cash from the Government, There is not the slightest reason tobelieve that anything like this would happen here in Waltham Forest; even in Liverpool, where the relationship between Unions and LabourGroup verged on bribery such a campaign collapsed. This government wouldnot allow itself to be faced down and the uncertainty caused by anunbalanced budget would cause a lot of key personnel to- leave for moresecure employment resulting in severe problems in maintaining basicservices.It is very possible that a decision to set a deficit budgetcould be challenged in Court and I would be surprised if a vote infavour of it would carry in Waltham Forest

b-Creative Accountancy. This is a process in which someitems of expenditure normally regarded as revenue are charged to Capitaland funded by deferred purchase. The reduction in revenue brings thebudget down to the rate-capped level. This method has been used by innerLondon Boroughs and it is clear that the Government has only recentlyrealised this and is starting to take action against it. There havealready been changes in accounting rules designed to limit theCapitalisation of Housing repairs by removing subsidy and the mostrecent Local Government Bill has clauses in it giving the Secretary ofState powers to step in and adjust Council budgets. Ve should not assumethat this option will be available to us. Even if it were, if there werea general election which Labour lost it would be an unwise move as itwould, in effect be borrowing to finance current expenditure without anyhope of being able to pay back without massive cuts.

c-With these two alternatives gone, the Group will finditself forced to make massive reductions in expenditure to produce abudget for 88/89. As some of the staff for the new developments will bealready recruited the only way such reductions could be achieved wouldbe by a recruitment freeze from the Autumn on, and this freeze would cover not just the new services but the whole range of Councilexpenditure* Ve would be in a situation with some departments staffedfor new developments while others would not be staffed to do basic work,In short, the service would deteriorate,and,as staff morale lowered andexperienced and skilled staff left for better managed posts elsewherethe deterioration would accelerate..Rather than implementing themanifesto, we are likely to have to spend two years in crisismanagement,


Unless someone can prove me wrong (and I would dearly love themto) I conclude that to go for a budget growth of the size we areproposing will be unpopular, will provide very little improvement insolving serious casework problems faced by Councillors, will exacerbatethe already poor standard of financial management provided by officersand,most seriously,will impair rather than improve basic services.Veare,in effect deluding ourselves into believing that we will be able tosustain this level of expenditure when, in fact, resources to do so willsimply not be there.Ve are entitled to delude ourselves if we wish, weshould not delude,the Party,the Council workforce or*the general public,

I therefore intend to propose at the next group meeting that wereject the Committee budgets so drawn up and ask committees to re-drawbudgets on the basis of a 3% saving from the projected figure(i.e. after"savings" derived from re-phasing and not to commence recruiting stafffor category B and Cl items until they have satisfied Resources StrategyCttee that this has been done.. In effect we would be cash-limiting thebudget with a 3% reduction. This would reduce the rate call by around10% to the "safe" side of 50% and would give budget managers theincentive to look for savings. It will also require the Labour Group todo the task we have been putting off for too long, to seriously considerour priorities in the light of what we are likely to be able to spend,

Richard Slack 20.2.87

To all group members and group reps
NOTE: I think this is the report which once it got leaked to the press, made Richard Slack resign.
NOTE: See reference to this in exparte action at High Court