Tuesday, 7 July 2015

#LOBOs The Wolves That Stalk The High Streets

'Lobo' is Spanish for 'wolf'
Last night Dispatches updated us on the LOBO crisis that's savaging the UK's local government budgets. 

Not only have councils lost the estimated £500 million in instant profits pocketed by the banks who lured them off long term, low rate loans to 'more flexible' terms; but they're also left with higher interest bills that have resulted in more spending cuts or higher borrowing.

Everyone still involved seems to deny there's a problem, of course, but the data speaks volumes and some of the poachers-turned-gamekeeper have been willing to spill the beans. 

It's worth noting that the banks paid commissions to 'brokers' who brought in the business. Whether those commissions were or should have been disclosed is one issue; and whether the brokers also paid a cut to others is another. You'd think that Clive Betts MP (Lab), Chair of the Commons' Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, might include those items on his agenda - assuming he can get past the sad fact that allowing local governments to deal with the banking wolves in the first place was a Labour initiative.

It's also important to note that all of this only came to light through the tenacity of researchers armed with Freedom of Information requests, the results of which were handed to Dispatches. While hunting down any miscreants is an important step, requiring greater transparency on the sources and terms of local government borrowing in future might also help avoid another mauling. 

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