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Eric Pickles: 'Never better for local government'

Deborah McGurran | 18:56 UK time, Sunday, 3 October 2010

Eric Pickles

Across the region councillors are drawing up plans to cut jobs, reduce services and close down buildings.

So how will they have reacted when they heard the Communities Secretary and Essex MP Eric Pickles declare: "There has never been a better time to be involved in local government."

Mr PIckles is relishing his new job and it showed as he gave one of the first keynote speeches at this year's Conservative Party Conference.

Already he has abolished regional Government offices, regional development agencies, the Audit Commission and slashed funding to councils for transport projects, new homes schemes and education.

And he's only just got going.

"We're cutting back the red tape that holds councillors back," he announced to loud applause. "We're shredding unnecessary guidance, performance indicators and data reporting regimes."

Mr PIckles spoke about being as "bold, radical and ambitious as we want".

And he said council chief executives who earn £150,000 a year could afford a 5% pay cut while those who earn £200,000 could manage a 10% pay cut.

For the record Suffolk's Chief Executive Andrea Hill earns £220,000 a year, Norfolk's Chief Executive David White gets £212,000 while the joint Chief Executive of Brentwood Borough Council and Essex County Council Joanna Killian brings in £285,000.

Mr Pickles has a vision of slimmed down, cost-effective councils, making their own decisons without the heavy hand of Whitehall on their shoulder.

"A stronger say on licensing, on planning, on public health. We've freed up £1 billion of ring-fenced funding with much more to come.

"We'll allow councils to borrow against future business rate revenue to provide new infrastructure. And we want to put local councils in the driving seat to join up public services, pooling budgets across the public sector - social services, care, housing and health improvement and reward councils for delivering results."

He talked about councils merging services, he likes the idea of whole councils merging - something that has just happened in Suffolk, where Babergh and Mid Suffolk have just decided to tie the knot.

At no time in his speech did he refer to job losses or to the very real pain which will be caused as councils adjust to this brave new world.

But then according to Mr Pickles: "This is a once in a generation chance to change our country for the better - let's get on with it!"


Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Mmmm?

    "We'll allow councils to borrow against future business rate revenue to provide new infrastructure. And we want to put local councils in the driving seat to join up public services, pooling budgets across the public sector - social services, care, housing and health improvement and reward councils for delivering results."

    Wasn't it borrowing against money we don't already have, what got us into the current mess in the first place? Sounds like building up more problems for the future to me?

 

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