Jeremy Corbyn has blamed the Government’s “slash and burn” approach to public services for the financial collapse of a Conservative-run council.
The Labour leader pressed Theresa May over whether Northamptonshire County Council’s slide towards effective bankruptcy was a result of Tory “incompetence” at a local or a national level, after the local authority admitted it was unable to meet its financial obligations.
In a heated exchange, the Prime Minister honed in on left-wing takeovers and allegations of antisemitism within Labour-run councils.
Mr Corbyn said: “Does the Prime Minister believe the collapse of Northamptonshire Council is the result of Conservative incompetence at a local level or is it Conservative incompetence at a national level?”
To shouts of “Answer” by Labour MPs, Ms May said: “If we look at what is happening in councils up and down this country, there is one message for everybody and that is Conservative councils cost you less.”
An independent report recommended that cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council should be scrapped and split into two new unitary authorities, after it was forced to bring in emergency spending controls to cope with significant financial pressures.
Mr Corbyn quoted concerns from the council leader over outsourcing of services, adding: “Does the Prime Minister really believe that the slash-and-burn model for local government is really a good one?”
However the Prime Minister said he had not “accurately reflected” the independent inspection, adding: “The report was clear that Northamptonshire’s failure is not a case of under-funding.”
She added: “The attack that he is making that this is all about the amount of money that the Government is providing is not correct.”
Ms May highlighted senior Labour figures in local government, who she said had been “forced out” by the left wing of the party.
“Haringey, where the Labour leader was forced out. Brighton, where the Labour leader was forced out. Cornwall, where the Labour group leader was forced out,” she said.
“What have these people done? They had supported building more homes, providing good local services and tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”
To cheers from Tory MPs, she said: “So the message is clear – if you believe in good local services, if you want to see more homes built, and if you want to tackle anti-Semitism, there is no place for you in the Labour Party.”
The Labour leader dismissed her comments, saying Conservative councils “privatise” while Labour authorities “build houses”.