Maurice Stonefrost is dead

by Harry on November 10, 2008

Guardian obit here. Someone told me that the official assigned to Harry Perkins in A Very British Coup was modelled on him, but that may be apocryphal. This isn’t:

At the GLC Stonefrost worked with Labour and Conservative leaderships. During the moderate Labour administration of 1973-77, he had to negotiate with central government and the City to avoid any risk of London following New York into a financial mess. Then he ran the GLC’s finances for the radical Conservative leader Sir Horace Cutler.

But his work during the years of Ken Livingstone’s leadership, from 1981, allowed him to demonstrate his extraordinary capacity to run a big institution at a difficult time. Not only did he allow Livingstone to pursue his brand of politics within a legitimate budgetary framework, but when it came to the campaign against abolition of the GLC by Margaret Thatcher’s government, Stonefrost generated charts showing how unworkable the post-abolition world would be. His best effort was a “spider diagram” with hundreds of lines from London government organisations to each other, showing how abolition would create fragmentation and chaos.

At the height of the Thatcher v Livingstone struggle, Stonefrost’s officials pulled off an audacious stunt by manipulating the government’s complex local-government finance system so as to suck in £200m of additional grant after the end of a financial year. Worse, other authorities ended up paying for the shift of resources. The manoeuvre was wholly legal and very clever. It is hard to think of any other finance chief who would have had the ingenuity or confidence to do such a thing. Moreover, the government was left fuming with rage at seeing its own financial weaponry turned against itself.

One of the greatest municipal civil servants of his generation. No wikipedia entry.



Seth Finkelstein 11.10.08 at 8:08 pm

Google : Results 1 – 10 of about 251 for “Maurice Stonefrost”


notedscholar 11.11.08 at 12:31 am

Stonefrost, what an excellent name.


Eli Rabett 11.11.08 at 1:19 am

So, put up an entry in the wikipedia


harry b 11.11.08 at 1:29 am

I’ll do it when I am voncinced that no-one better qualified will….


Henry (not the famous one) 11.11.08 at 2:05 am

The nature of Wikipedia makes your reservations/modesty beside the point. Starting a page is likely to invite more qualified editors to improve on your work, since you will have done the grunt work of starting it. While you also run the risk that hacks will vandalize your work–don’t know if the new rules are effective–or other editors will disfigure it by demanding citations for every other sentence, that is unavoidable. Just make sure it’s good enough and long enough to get past the “Who is he?” deleters.


Twisted_Colour 11.11.08 at 5:36 am

Not many people had the balls to not only stand up to Thatcher, but to stick it to her as well.

The world need more people like him.


Doug 11.11.08 at 6:07 am

But! Original research!! Oh nooooessss!!!


Stark 11.11.08 at 6:55 am

Basically if you don’t make the Wikipedia page nobody will, and if nobody makes the Wikipedia page, nobody will have any idea in fifty years that Mr. Stonefrost ever existed…


Jordan DeLange 11.11.08 at 8:17 am

Ok, so, despite not ever doing this before, the wikipedia page has been created. It would be great if harry and harry(b) could perhaps edit that page to include information not included in the Google 1-10.

@ Seth Finkelstein

Sorry if I’m getting you wrong, but isn’t one of your main complaints against wikipedia that is has the effect of directing traffic away from “expert” opinions because the wikipedia page comes up as 1 or 2 on lots of searches? If so, how does advocating the 1-10 of Google’s searches help? They were all non-expert sites for me, and indeed the two that had useful information were the ones I used to create the wikipedia page. So, wikipedia seems to be at least as good as the 1-10 Google search you recommended, and at least not as bad at driving traffic away from expert opinions as yours, and this involves me, who has very insignificant wikipedia experience …


Martin Wisse 11.11.08 at 8:35 am

This is genuinely a subject Wikipedia is bad at though: somebody whose prime was decades before the internet, let alone Wikipedia was a going concern and who isn’t famous or obvious enough to be remembered by the sort of people who edit Wikipedia. In these cases, the best thing that can happen is waht happens here: a mini campaign for his inclusion that sparked with one volunteer.


Alex 11.11.08 at 9:22 am

Even his name seems to exude civil-servicey goodness.


Seth Finkelstein 11.11.08 at 9:38 am

@Jordan DeLange – I was too brief. The key element I intended in my comment was the 251 number, meaning “He has only 251 Google hits for his name, what did you expect, of course he doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry”.


Warrell 11.11.08 at 4:17 pm

His funeral was yesterday. Terrible weather meant that a man who was so punctual was late getting to the crematorium. It was a humbling service with entertaining and poignant speeches from his daughter Hilary (married to William Keegan) and his son Mark. The head of CIPFA gave an excellent speech describing his illustrious career. I knew Maurice as a very warm, charming and generous family man who was at home and assured both on the terraces of his beloved Fratton Park and in the Boardroom.


harry b 11.11.08 at 8:26 pm

Thanks Jordan, that’s a great page. I’ll do some editing later.

Warrell, thanks so much for that. I did not know him, but read about him frequently and admired the character that came through in what I read; I’m glad to hear that impression confirmed, and commiserate with his family.


Jordan DeLange 11.12.08 at 8:14 am

@ Seth Finkelstein

Oops, I probably should have been able to guess that, my bad.


Thanks. I had never heard of Stonefrost before, so I’m interested.


Warrell 11.12.08 at 9:15 am

Thank you Harry for blogging about Maurice. There will be a memorial service in London that Hilary Stonefrost is organising.

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