Southport’s Tory MP has been accused of “brittle petulance” after a remarkable outburst against a local councillor in a row over funding.
Damien Moore reacted after one of the town’s Norwood councillors publicly quizzed him over cuts to the local authority’s emergency funding during the Covid crisis.
Some £2.4m has been cut already, with concern also expressed by the councillor over a potential £40m black hole facing Sefton and the effect on services to local residents it will have if the government doesn’t fulfil its promise to meet all costs caused by the pandemic.
The questions prompted a lengthy response from the Conservative MP on his Facebook page which Labour councillor Greg Myers says contained several inaccuracies but the MP then censored his attempt to address them. Cllr Myers explained:
“I replied on the MP’s Facebook page to his rather rambling post, pointing out his dubious claims but within minutes it had been taken down to prevent anyone from seeing it.”
“Given one of the MP’s gripes in his post had been a strange comment about me not writing to him about the funding issue, it was more than a little ironic that when I then did he immediately removed it so that only his incorrect points could be seen.”
“His initial response felt like an exercise in deflection and misinformation, revealing rather brittle petulance. That was only reinforced when he then also censored my reply.”
“It’s Trump tactics, something the local MP has employed before when he blocked a series of local residents from his social media.”
“I’m not sure which bit caused his discomfort, it could be anything from highlighting his previous empty boasting to just exposing how empty these latest claims from him are, or possibly he just wanted to avoid the question I posed him.”
“I specifically asked whether he would make a commitment to pressing the government to ensure that Sefton will be fully reimbursed for its Covid costs so that local residents will not suffer services being severely disrupted – which will be the inevitable consequence if the government rows back on its assurances, which many fear is looking more likely.”
“Given he failed to do that and instead censored the reply, the answer would appear to be no – a huge failing of his responsibility to local residents, if so.”
The full response from Cllr Myers which was removed from the MP’s social media was as follows:
“Most amusing, if a little rambling from Damien, so apologies for the length of this in reply…
Just to be clear Mr Moore (or TBF, more likely one of your staff, so good to see Damien is getting his money’s worth from them with this lengthy if largely nonsensical “tome”) – the questions were asked in the original press release and there was no suggestion I’d contacted you directly in it.
So it rather seems you are just trying to deflect by bringing attention to a matter that was never raised in the first place? Btw, by your own standards – you didn’t contact me directly about the points and claims here… but am guessing that’s somehow different, huh?
As to your very odd comments about communicating help, well, telling people things isn’t the same as doing them, is it? You should know that better than most… I mean IIRC, didn’t you imply you’d been behind £675m of the High Street Fund being allocated and also say that Southport would be receiving a chunk of it, which it never did -?
Didn’t you also later strongly suggested you’d already secured £25m of Town Deal funding – which makes the whole of hard work going into the board and bidding process which is going on at the moment seem a bit odd if that’s the case? Or perhaps it was just another case of “communicating” and not actually doing?
Actions speak louder than words Mr Moore and I’d suspect that residents realise that, along with many other key workers and volunteers, Sefton that has been doing much of the heavy lifting locally during this crisis.
They also realise that Sefton is Labour controlled, so seems to me that residents already know that it’s been Labour’s councillors and Sefton’s excellent staff making the decisions and executing them which has been at the core of that response. As such, we don’t really need to make a huge song and dance about it.
And yes, some Lib Dems are talking about how they are visiting those shielding but as they themselves admit in their release – other councillors are doing that too, maybe even some Tories? I certainly know that lots of Labour councillors are… and good on ALL of the councillors who are doing it.
Which brings me on to your attempts to sound tough in the comments under your post on your Facebook page about how you are no longer going to take the sort of comments in the original article “Particularly when they’re produced by those who have done virtually nothing to support our town through this difficult period.”
Well, admittedly, as a ward councillor I don’t have a paid staff of …how many exactly is it that you have? So, let’s just make a personal comparison instead, now that you’ve brought the subject up – I’m pretty certain that I’ll have visited a lot more Southport residents to check up on them than you will have done in last couple of weeks or so – I’m on three figures, how many have you personally visited to check up on them?
I fully realise this whole comparison thing is really a bit apples and oranges TBF… but then given your considerable staffing resources, expenses etc, you surely must have known that in the first place? To my mind, trying to introduce comparison in the manner you have brings with it a whiff of brittle petulance and one which runs through much of your response.
By the way, I’m led to believe that you are now a PPS to Michael Gove as well, is that correct? I’ve got a 9-month-old – so seems we do have some common ground at least, as we are both also very busy dealing with an awful lot of poop being produced.
Moving on, I wouldn’t want to speak for the council leader, he’s more than capable of doing that himself, and he’s rather busy presently due to dealing with a council that’s under such huge pressures currently. So, I can’t say whether your claim there is true or not – what I do know is that the two regional metro mayors have been loud and clear about the funding problems, as have authorities up and down the country and the LGA – so if all this comes as a surprise to you then I’d suggest you need brush-up or get those staff checking up on it, it’s really quite important.
There’s plenty of other stuff you then go on about which is little to do with the point of the original piece which was about funding, so let’s quickly do some of it before we get to that.
Firstly, well done, you’ve misunderstood the “strangely quiet” comment – as the silence referred to you being quiet on the funding issue. I’m heartened to hear though that the welfare of the asylum seekers is your primary concern and that you’ve finally directed your queries to your colleagues in the Home Office – given that it made the decision with SERCO to place them here, that certainly seems the best place to get answers.
Equally, not entirely sure why you’ve made reference to not responding to your constituents – there’s no comment about that in the original article you are supposedly responding to, you seem to be over-compensating for something?
Given that not that long ago at all you came 611th out of 650 MPs in the People Power Index which rated MPs on their availability to their constituents; how they listen to the public, and their performance in Parliament – is it that perhaps? It seems a little disingenuous to bemoan your plight and then try to lay the blame at my door or that of my colleagues, if so. As I say, there’s a whiff of brittle petulance.
So, onto the funding – I note you quibble with the terminology but don’t deny the actual amount already cut re. Sefton and, of course, I also referred to the £10-£13 billion that the Local Government Association has warned about. that you seem not to have not heard of.
I mentioned the real concerns about the possibility of a £40m black hole opening up in Sefton’s finances if the government does not live up to its previous promises. I’ll add now that in truth it would massively affect services for residents if the loss were only a quarter of that.
There’s plenty you say in relation to funding but one bit stands out the most, you state: “SMBC has yet to publish the full impact of coronavirus on its finances. I cannot ask the Government to underwrite the debt of this council when I have not been provided with the full details or a total cost.”
Now, I must admit that previously I didn’t hear the government stating that they’d wait for the bill and then decide – what Robert Jenrick said was that they “would stand behind councils and give them the funding they need”, so your comment seems a little odd?
So given that, will you now give an assurance right here that once the council’s costs are totted up you will then be asking the Government to underwrite those costs in full and make clear that any failure to do so will not only be a case of the government failing to meet the commitment it made but also a failure of its duty to Sefton residents?
As this is long enough now, I’ll leave it there – apologies if I’ve missed anything but as you avoided any reference to my point about your liking of the tweet in support of Dominic Cummings and then removing it when the outcry started over his actions, am sure you’ll understand. Have a lovely weekend.”