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Pickles' fight with councils

Nick Robinson | 09:19 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Eric Pickles is one of those politicians who would not be content merely with crossing a road for a political fight, he would sprint across a six-lane motorway for a scrap with his opponents.

Eric Pickles

 

That is all most people would notice of the secretary of state for communities and local government. Well, not quite all. He is, after all, a big chap and with those soft Yorkshire vowels looks and sounds like no other contemporary politician. Put some mutton chops, a waistcoat and a watch chain on him and Pickles would look and sound like many a council leader of yesteryear.

All this, though, is to miss the point about Eric Pickles. What few ever notice about him, though he cheerfully talks about it, is that he was once a Marxist - or a Marxist-Leninist to be precise (these distinctions matter, I'm told). As such he is a student of political theory - a man who is fascinated by the practice as well as the theory of how political change is brought about.

Pickles is picking a fight with councils for a reason. He is a believer in what Marxists call "creative destruction" - the idea that before creation can begin destruction must come first. PIckles believes that many councils got, well, fat in the New Labour years. They hired more staff, they paid themselves big pay rises, they took on jobs that their voters didn't really want them to carry out.

The minister could have done what his predecessors did in the Thatcher and Blair eras - issue diktats capping their council tax levels and ordering them what to spend on and what not to spend on. He chose not to. Pickles is issuing orders from Whitehall which are irritating councils but they are orders to be more transparent and, he argues, more democratic.

First, councils were forced to publish details of everything they spend money on which costs more than £500. Next, he limited the ability of councils to produce their own newspapers in the hope of both protecting and unleashing the old fashioned local press on their local politicians.

He wants them to do to council budgets what the national media did to MPs' expenses - publish, scrutinise and criticise. Today he's telling councils to have full public debates on any new council pay packet over £100,000. Next year they will be able to set any council tax level they like but - and it is a big but - rises above a certain level will trigger a referendum on the council tax level.

Some see this as an old fashioned war between local and central government, some see it as an attempt to distract from the coalition's cuts, some - even in government - see it as more destructive than creative. However, Eric Pickles's closest colleagues see method in what others see as the minister's madness.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    "he would sprint across a six-lane motorway for a scrap with his opponents."

    I dont know why, but this brings to mind the old picture of Robert Maxwell waddling across the pitch at Derby County's old ground many many moons ago... either way, Pickles sprinting across a 6 lane motorway... I'd pay to see that.

    Anyhoo. so far as the meat of the article is concerned... Some appear to be interesting ideas. And anything, IMHO, that compels Councils to be more transparent instead of holding sessions in camera as far too many have done where contentious decisions are concerned cannot be all bad.

    It may slow the process of local government up, but by the same token, local authorities have hardly ever been the most dynamic of workplaces, have they? And, compared to how things are now...

    Will be interested to see how much resistance is encountered and whether he succeeds. And what the end result means for the citizen...

  • Comment number 2.

    Yuck, can't believe I'm about to say this, but I actually agree with Pickles in his crusade to rein in council pay.

    However, he's also getting a lot wrong with local government which isn't mentioned in the above blog. He's also a thoroughly unlikable man, insisting that civil servants address him as 'minister' - quite obviously a power-hungry man on an ego trip.

  • Comment number 3.

    There is no doubt councils are in the front line of the coalitions public sector slash and burn policy. The front loading proves that and all the talk of back office this and restructuring that is pure presentation and diversion. It takes years and front loaded expenditure to get savings from merging/sharing back offices. Whatever savings there are and such claims are far from uncontentious they will only pay back investment after several years and central government know this because they have tried the back office approach with questionable results.

    So suggesting councils can fully compensate for the drastic reductions in grant is gross dishonesty. They have the freedom to emasculate themselves.

  • Comment number 4.

    After lecturing for decades about the free market, after fighting bitterly over not restricting bankers' salaries and bonuses, because "business needs to be able to attract and incentivise the best people", how can there now be a cap? Does the public sector not need to compete in the employment market?

    What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • Comment number 5.

    Eric Pickles once a Marxist...


    There's hope for sagamix yet...


    The man is a legend (Pickles, not sagamix) and a political heavyweight.

    All of the above listed requirements are standard practice in the prviate secotr. What makes councils think they can get away with hiding their spending?

    It's grim up north London...(even when the tories shine a light on their malpractice)

  • Comment number 6.

    "More destructive than creative" This Eric Pickles bloke sounds like he is a bit of an old fashioned Tory. He is, is he? Thought as much!

  • Comment number 7.

    This is the dilemma for Pickles and his party: in theory the Tories favour devolution of power to local level but in practice they don't trust local politicians.

  • Comment number 8.

    Democractic light needed to be shed on local councils, some of whom have become too 'political' in their behaviour.

    Partly, the rot set in when they got delusions of grandeur via posts such as "Cabinet Minister for Potholes, etc" with salaries and perks to suit.

    Pickles is cleverly exposing any dubious practices and is, in effect, imposing some democracy at the local level.

    Carry on.

  • Comment number 9.

    "Whatever savings there are and such claims are far from uncontentious they will only pay back investment after several years and central government know this because they have tried the back office approach with questionable results."

    I see where you're coming from with the "invest now, savings come much later" line, but where, pray tell, have they (Central Government) tried shared services/back office functions already?

    I've been in the Government sector for the last 6 years and seen precious little sign of it...

  • Comment number 10.

    not only that every "new" or job over 30K should be looked at by the full council, they too can earn there money, so that ALL those diversity jobs can go and the toilets stay open.

    Pickles like thather I hope so would just love it just love it,

    time for a beer to celebrate, a nice English beer too

  • Comment number 11.

    I confess I like Pickles a lot, I like the fact he is not held in a straitjacket of doctrine and can move around in belief to reach a conclusion of what is actually good for the people. He also has the muscle and determination to get things done. Which is more than can be said for most Politicians. He feels real to me, when I see him in discussion, and that works for me.

    He is spot on about Councils as well, they are much too powerful, and have actually become answerable to no one. A lot of the money in Councils is misused with ever increasing amounts needed from the taxpayer to provide for useless services, instead of necessary ones. Councils love to promote themselves through propaganda material, and spend vast amounts on it. Executives are still paying themselves more as they continue to spend freely. An ordinary individual who wants to take the Council to task on any issues, will never win, even in court, such is their power. Labour Councils are by far the worst. Anything which can be done to pull these people into line is fine with me.

    However, I do believe that for the present some kind of guidance as to what the Councils can and cannot cut in services should be made clear. It is obvious that Labour Councils are cutting necessary services for political reasons and this should be stopped. Maybe Pickles is playing the long game though, and letting Councils hang themselves.

  • Comment number 12.

    It's long overdue that councils started spending money on things that matter - collecting rubbish, repairing potholes in the roads etc and stopped spending money on non-jobs. We don't need 5-a-day outreach coordinators, we don't need diversity awareness managers, and we certainly don't need councillors who boast that they went into public service to spend other peoples' money.

  • Comment number 13.

    If Councils got fat under New Labour, then the financial market got positively obese! I note that Mr Pickles has no plans to attack his friends.

  • Comment number 14.

    #4 £100,000 for a 30 year plus pension and benifit etc I think is a good deal and actually I would like to do tha type of job for that package.

    As can be seen from manchester cutting the Public toilets rather than diversity directors was politically motivated. look people need to be able to hold these executives to account and the local politican for the decisions too.

    And as for the Banks you can always take your money elsewhere and that will sort them out.

    NO more Brown Command and Control please

  • Comment number 15.

    pdavies65 7

    That is because you do not understand the concept, being someone who only believes in Government of some kind, to control the people. It is devolution to the people not to Councils. So that the people have more say on how Councils are run and what the money is spent on. Instead we have all powerful Councils dictating to the people.

  • Comment number 16.

    The first thing these high paid council CEO's do is bring in consultants. Why? What exactly does a council CEO do?
    Pickles is exactly right.

  • Comment number 17.

    7 pdavies65

    This is the dilemma for Pickles and his party: in theory the Tories favour devolution of power to local level but in practice they don't trust local politicians.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    He is giving councils more freedom and requiring them to be more accountable to local people. This suggests that he trusts local people more than local politicians, sounds sensible to me.

  • Comment number 18.

    Have to wonder how much of this is just smoke and mirrors, apparently the advised reduction of salaries of those earning over £150,000 is 5%; it seems to me however that although a salary reduction of £7,500 although to the likes of myself would be a massive reduction will have next to no impact on councellors whatsoever.

    Is this just another Tory distraction technique to try and make us forget about the fact that thousands of public servants are losing their jobs? Is this an attempt to show that the tories aren't just cutting funds from the working and middle classes whilst helping out their social elite? Shouting about minutley reducing salary levels from the top earners whilst making thousands redundant elsewhere sure sounds like standard tory behaviour to me! Well at least its better than being told that it's all labours fault...AGAIN!

  • Comment number 19.

    A good test of 'localism' - is it a transfer of power or just a smokescreen that transfers blame for the effects of the cuts?

    As Pickles makes endless dictats from the centre, INCREASING council bureacracy, I think he makes this pretty obvious.

    One council locally is outright refusing to transfer admin staff to the massive bureaucratic task of publishing thousands of small expenditure items, at the same time as they are having to make cuts on real frontline services. I say 'well done' the council.

    If Pickles is in favour of 'localism' then let the local councilors decide - or is it only the cuts he wants administered locally?

  • Comment number 20.

    4 sturdyblog

    After lecturing for decades about the free market, after fighting bitterly over not restricting bankers' salaries and bonuses, because "business needs to be able to attract and incentivise the best people", how can there now be a cap? Does the public sector not need to compete in the employment market?

    What a bunch of hypocrites

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Your rhetoric would make more sense if a salary cap was being proposed. The proposal is to make sure that salaries above a certain level have to be approved by a formal vote of councillors.

    This is surely a good thing?

  • Comment number 21.

    Nick Robinson.

    "What few ever notice about him [Eric Pickles], though he cheerfully talks about it, is that he was once a Marxist.."

    yes, and Tony Blair was a guitar-playing rock star before he took decisive part in destroying the cradle of civilisation and wound up with blood on his hands.

    but we're in 2011 now and should judge people by their current actions; fwiw, RedandYellowandGreennotBlue's #2 seems a fair summary.

    "Next, he limited the ability of councils to produce their own newspapers.."

    when all required information is published electronically anyway, I have to say, Mr Pickles knows how to pick irrelevant fights.

    "PIckles (sic) believes that many councils got, well, fat in the New Labour years."

    when do we see ministers of our government begin to address the excess 'fat' in MPs and ministerial (financial) compensations? when will they address the waste created by making national policy based on belief instead of evidence? when will we see them admit that one needs to lead by example, not by 'diktat'?

  • Comment number 22.

    There has been a need for a very long time for someone to shine a very
    bright light on councils,and if Eric Pickles is that someone,then we will
    all benefit,both financially and democratically.

    Councillors allowances cost us all over £200 million a year,with some council leaders claiming more than £50K p.a.

    Birminghams council leader (Tory) £72,214.His deputy (libdem)£58,602

    Manchester council leader (Labour)£55,400

    That bright light needs to go far,wide and deep.

  • Comment number 23.

    #21 sound like you are talking about 13 years of New Labour in power

  • Comment number 24.

    "these distinctions matter, I'm told"

    You're paid for this - you shouldn't have to be told. It's your job to know.

    But then, I suspect it's also meant to be your job to be impartial, but you've never let that bother you.

  • Comment number 25.

    #19 if its a massive task to publish the data , then maybe they are spending to much.

    These reciepts should be kept orderly in the first place if they are to control sprending and have value for money , maybe its that they do not want exposed to the public.

    Staff to do that job would be in the £10-20K bracket no more ,so cutting admin staff rsther than services is the way forward

    or is it they do not want to make there mates redundant and want to make political points by cutting front line services

  • Comment number 26.

    Is he another one of those 'professional' MPs? He doesn't seem to have done much outside politics. Or in it for that matter!

  • Comment number 27.

    Pickles is no more than the John Precott of his time- northern, overweight, idealogically driven and a bit of a bruiser. He is certainly not a legend and until his policies have a chance to bear fruit or wither on the vine it is probably too early to profile him. However, I sense that he, more than anyone, may endanger the coalition. The Lib Dem power base remains in Local Government and may be all they have left post the next election. There will be a huge amount of pressure coming from Lib Dem Councils for some carrots to throw around and a plea to ease off on spending cuts and Pickles idealogy. A Lib Dem wipe out in the next local elections (losing prizes such as Newcastle City Council for example) will put Lib Dem activists into a flat spin and see them distancing themselves from the Coalition. Nick Clegg becomes increasingly isolated, MPs start to lose their nerve...

    As for Labour Councils being by far the worst, unless you have lived in several areas with several different regimes, I don't think anyone can judge. But the Lib Dems in Newcastle did spend £1.4 million to create a 15 yard bus lane outside the civic centre...

  • Comment number 28.

    Perhaps Pickles can broaden his remit to include the breaking of political party strong hold over local Government.

    Down in Forgotten County, the LibDem’s & Tories spend more time bitching between themselves than doing the job of running the County.
    The Bafoons can’t even get the bin collections sorted out & turn their noses up at 5 figure petitions of local concerns.

    My Council can’t be the only one which is run by idiots that are more interested in partisan issues than getting on with doing the job they were elected to do.

    Carry on with my blessing Big Man; your work has only just begun.

  • Comment number 29.

    IR35_SURVIVOR #23.

    "..sound like you are talking about 13 years of New Labour in power"

    Mr Cameron's 'Big Society' (aka BS) is all built around his beliefs, just like the failed 'New Labour' experiment was built around Tony Blair's; in that sense, the ConDem(n)s coalition policies are simply a continuation of unsuitable/unsustainable/unhelpful policy making.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well, should be no need for a left v right squabble on this one. We ALL want to see power devolved to its lowest appropriate point – local people solving local issues in a very local way – but we all hate the idea of jumped-up councillors thinking they’re extremely important and paying themselves too much, and we don’t want too much 'politics' in local government; a labour technique for fixing the roads? ... a clowny way to empty the bins? ... I don’t think so. No, it’s consensus time.

    Only question is, what on earth is Pickles playing at?

  • Comment number 31.

    I worked for Manchester City Council and I found the waste of money angering. Recruitment for senior positions lay on huge meals, pay for hotels, reimburse travel and petrol costs and often hire rooms in buildings when there are town hall rooms empty. Also the middle to senior management aren't shy in spending public money on dinners, trips and courses for themselves to attend. They are all for saving money if it doesn't include them. Many a time I saw them taking taxis to and from meetings that were being held only a 5 minute walk from the Town Hall - it isn't their money so they feel free to waste it.

  • Comment number 32.

    It is usual after a party comes to power that their support at the local level shrinks as the parliament goes on. What Pickles is doing is nothing more than muddying the pitch in advance of this happening for the coalition, in other words getting his retaliation in first, not very creative.

  • Comment number 33.

    Councils employ a lot of temporary staff, and if anything I suspect their numbers have increased in the last few years, as Councils saw the writing on the wall. Councils have been under strain for quite a few years.

    These temps seem like an obvious easy cost saving to me. Which would be a pity, as I'd guess they're often in the 18-24 age group, a group that has been getting a very raw deal recently, as the unemployment figures show.

    The other obvious place for job losses lie in early retirement or voluntary redundancy for those who want to go anyway. Nothing wrong with that, per se, though it skews the job loss figures and the 'savings' from it are debatable in some cases.

    If councils are 'fat', I wonder how much of that comes from them protectively stuffing themselves with staff and infrastructure they didn't really need?

    I wonder if Pickles wants to just trim that sort of fat, or does he want to cut deeper than that?

    Whatever his aim, budget cuts are a very blunt instrument. Greater transparency could help, but only if someone has the time to actually read and interpret the information. It's very time-consuming. And even then, the public has to understand what's going on and care about it.

    The government's encouragement of the voluntary sector to get involved, and the new freedom for council workers to split from their council and form a co-operative muddy the water further.

    Seems like they're making a lot of changes very fast, and that makes it more difficult to figure out what's going on or predict the outcome.

  • Comment number 34.

    Council officials and Councillors are far too powerful and seem to have an attitude that the populace has to be abused, treated like children or dumb animals and kept in the dark. I agree that they should no longer publish expensive glossy news sheets and updates. All they have to do is send their information to the local papers. This would save a fortune in labour, printing and distribution costs. They should publish monthly detailed accounts that show variance to budget in the same way that companies have to manage their accounts.The press could publish them and open up debates on them. Every cost should be scrutinised line by line. It is insidious that non jobs have crept into local authorities and in my view without consultation with the electorate. We do not need Equality Officers, directors and teams; we do not need Carbon and Environmental advisers, or co-ordinators for lesbians, gays, children, non English speaking people and goodness knows what else.

    Councils need to get back to basics. Clean and sweep and maintain the infrastructure, pay the Police and Firemen,pay teachers and some school employees,manage cemeteries and crematoria,manage parks and open spaces and make them be the local authorities shop window, tidy up waste, deal with social services and benefits as required by law and no more, run libraries and internet library/centres, manage planning and building laws but don't make a meal of it. Anything else in my view is the subject of debate and if costs need to be cut, cut them in non jobs and non front line services. All the snoops, spies and enforcement officers should be sacked as frankly they are generally an undemocratic nasty bureacratic element of government that is more at home in countries ran by Nazis, Communists and egotistical dictators.As a country, we are grossly over governed and under-managed.

  • Comment number 35.

    I don't have any substantive issues with this but I must admit to being somewhat confused by parts of it.

    I worked for a local authority for a few years in the early 1990's and it was clear to me then that all new posts were created only with councillor approval, that all remunerations were councillor approved either for existing posts, new posts, or regraded posts. This included senior officers and all posts/gradings/salaries/wages were mapped to some centrally agreed scale or other - eg JNC scale.

    Now, I don't recall ever hearing that this way of doing things has ever changed but from the sound of what the 'minister' is saying it has changed.

    Unless or until I can establish when it was that council officers could have their pay set without approval from councillers I am going to have to view this either as mischief making or a song and dance about nothing.

    Can someone please tell me when it came to be that posts/salaries etc stopped having to be approved by councillors?

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    The public sector job pages of the Guardian have, for the past 10 years or so, provided an excelent guide to the ramping up of salaries that has occurred for senior council officals in nearly all areas of the country. It is good that this overpayment issue is finally being addressed - such salaries are unsustainable and grossly unfair when the pay of more junior staff is too low to afford them to buy houses in their own areas. I hope (but don't really expect) that Mr Pickle's plan will effect some changes in the attitude of senior local government officials who have been too arrogant on this issue to date

  • Comment number 38.

    jr, jon and pd...

    Quick query: Is it actually possible for a Tory to do something right in your eyes?

    The £500 amount could be challenged but surely the principle of local people seeing how their local politicians are spending/wasting their money is a good idea?

  • Comment number 39.

    Eric Pickles continues to compare PM salary with that of Chief Executives in local government. This is a mistake as the jobs are not comparable. Compare PM salary with Leaders of Councils, the political leaders. You'll find that Council Leaders range between £10k and £60,000.

    Secretary to the Cabinet Office, Gus O'Donnell gets £239,900 (published figures) - you could compare Chief Executives pay with that. Range c. £85,000-230,000 across all levels of local government. And there are 84 senior managers in the Cabinet Office, over 60 of them earn in excess of £150,000 and I particularly like the idea that one part/time post is earning £79,000! Compare those to the pay of the PM.

    I also read with interest last week that Mr Pickles is proposing to publish the NAMES of those in local government earning more than £58,000. Apparently, Government proposed to do the same for the Civil Service but were told by the Cabinet Office this was not possible so it never happened.

    I fully support cutting waste but the current approach amounts to bullying, and certainly does not reflect the localism agenda. If central government put their own house in order first, then they would lead by example and save the country considerably more money.

  • Comment number 40.

    #8 is quite right.

    Before anyone can come out in support of councils they really need to take a look at a list of the job titles and the number of people in those jobs at their local council.

    What you will see is a long list of very essential functions, some that are useful but not essential and.... some total and utter nonsense.

    And yet, when they are forced to "cut"... it's things like youth workers (who are strictly speaking in the "useful but not essential" category) that get cut before the Pothole Czar or the Director of Communications. And that is partly "fill yer boots" and partly a political stance because they are cutting something that they know will evoke public anger without being quite in the "essential" zone.

    Pickles wants to devolve power to local level - but he knows that in order to do that there must be proper scrutiny at local level or he will forever have to interfere... and that wouldn't be devolution, would it?

    Proper public accountability should be expected of public bodies... shock, horror... what's the problem? What are they afraid of? Is their position so weak that it cannot stand debate?

    I suspect the answer to the last questions is: Yes.

  • Comment number 41.

    IDS (authors of the report earlier this week) have calculated that councils would save an average of just over £42,000 by cutting council executives' pay to the same level as the PM. http://idseye.com/2011/02/16/councils-would-save-average-42081-by-cutting-top-pay/

  • Comment number 42.

    He may be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but his performance on QT a while back (near the start of the expenses brouhaha; he was trying to defend some 2nd home versus travel 'accusation') made Pickles appear the very picture of a deep trough - noser; it was squirmingly unwatchable ... Fortunately for him the brouhaha had not yet become a full - blown scandal, so the issue remained unprobed; but the air was rank with the odour of self - serving hypocrisy and the over - riding impression left that here was a cartoon - character Tory caricature, out for himself ... Unedifying and inglorious ... However his homespun Hovis philosophies seem to appeal to those soft Southerners fed up with the charm 'n smarm ingrained (apparently) at certain Public Schools ... Surely time for a Class War ...

  • Comment number 43.

    I also like Pickles - a man who says what he thinks and is courageous enough to put his neck on the block to get something done is very refreshing to see. It does take me back to two-jags Prescott though who seemed to be a breath of fresh air but turned out to be a pompous bully. Judge them by results is my motto, whether they be ex-Marxists, ex-Etonians or whatever.

  • Comment number 44.

    Freeman #38.

    "Is it actually possible for a Tory to do something right in your eyes?"

    this is not about party affiliation. I'm concerned that national policy is shaped on the basis of personal beliefs when, IMO, it ought to be based on evidence.

  • Comment number 45.

    42#

    Yawnarama.... Half of these pea brained class warriors wouldnt know what to do with any "territorial advantage" that winning even minor battles or skirmishes in any class war could possibly give them.

    Talking about class war online is completely different to practising it.

  • Comment number 46.

    Local Council costs are far too high. Central government should insist that they only carry out tasks that are essential. This does not include divesity officers, climate control anything officers, lesbian anything officer etc. They need to return to their core values. They also need to sort out their pension contributions. If they want the benefit of a good retirement pension they should make the appropriate payment not fund it from council tax. What Pickles proposes is just a start, it will need much firmer action to get the councils under control.

  • Comment number 47.

    I agree with those bloggers who complain that central Government should lead by example on levels of renumeration and get its own house in order.

    However, this thread is about the local level and greater transparency appears to be working in my geographic area, inasmuch that journalists for local media seem to have the time to scrutinise Council web sites and are using that information to subit queries on staff numbers and salaries, particularly in areas where the council proposes to cut popular services such as libraries.

    Although medians and averages can be highly misleading, it does seem appropriate now that median public and private sector salaries are approximately equal, that the risk of losing your job is also now about the same.

  • Comment number 48.

    38. At 12:13pm on 16 Feb 2011, Freeman wrote:
    jr, jon and pd...
    Quick query: Is it actually possible for a Tory to do something right in your eyes?
    =========================

    I've slated the tories on here for ducking a direct question - so I will answer...

    No, absolutely impossible.

    It's a bit like someone coming along and making apologies for hitler by saying he did a good job with those autobahns. Sorry, that doesn't answer all the other things he did so I don't really want to hear what a good egg hitler was for building roads or getting germans into employment.

    When the tories are so unethical that they will destroy the lives of a million or more people for ideology and to shift wealth to their already rich backers, then I have little interest to hear that they have eventually come up with one idea that worked.

    I will be continuing to focus my attention on their daily fiascos.

  • Comment number 49.

    Councils are already far more democratic than central government. They get voted on every 4 years so more regular exposure to their constituency, there is more use of non first past the post methods in the elections (at least in Scotland, not so sure England/Wales) and outcomes in terms of seats held tend to more closely relate to the votes cast for each party. Additionally there tends to be more independents that especially at a local level can add a lot of local knowledge and remove some of the politics. The existence across the UK of so many coalition councils is a good thing and serves to force different political persuasions to work together.

    Pickles and the Tories should be looking to support this and encourage more people to vote in council elections. The £500 spending policy is plain silly (although I agree with concept of publicising large amounts, say over £100k). The policy on pay is fair enough in terms of getting councils to look again at what is reasonable, but care needs to be taken not to demonise people who are genuinely carrying out difficult and important jobs up and down the country.

    We can all come up with a 'slag the council' example, its too easy - but I agree with previous posters who point out supporting councils, properly elected to represent local people, is surely a potential consensus issue.

  • Comment number 50.

    We do not need another "student" of political theory anymore than we need another "student" of economics. We need masters.
    Pickles has a valid point.
    The Councils need discipline, a strict diet on spending.
    Can we really argue with transparency or accountability?
    Can we really argue that any Council Chiefs should be paid more than the PM, David Cameron? Nearly half of the Council Chiefs make more than David Cameron. So, it's hard to argue that councillors should be given the power to block salaries for Council Chiefs of more than £100,000.
    (Cameron's annual salary is £142,500.)
    Pickles: "We are not asking councils to do anything that central government isn't already doing. The prime minister has taken a pay cut, I've taken a pay cut, and government ministers have taken pay cuts."
    The scrutinizing of reimbursement will force Council Chiefs to work hard to impress their residents and taxpayers. BUT...
    The great hole in this piece of work is that it won't apply to those already getting high pay, and I simply have to ask: Why not?
    The Localism Bill: all councillors should be able to have their say on salaries that exceed £100,000.
    Asked whether the same rule would apply in Westminster, with MPs voting on civil servants' pay, Pickles said: "I don't see any reason why we shouldn't have this kind of debate in the House of Commons."
    The Chairman of the LGA's Local Government Group Workforce Board: "It is right that pay for senior staff in the public sector is subject to scrutiny, but this kind of top-down interference is simply unnecessary."
    Well, that's the topic of this debate, right?

  • Comment number 51.

    #30 BUT you will make it a left right issue

  • Comment number 52.

    #36 no tested at the ballot box with all the evidence in the open, thats hopefully what the aim is so counciller like those that have been cutting toilets for political reasons and the CEO get dumped out of office.

  • Comment number 53.

    I can't see how making councils become more transparent and telling them not to spend public money supporting themselves electorally by publishing newspapers can be construed as a 'war'.

    Councils spend my money so I am in favour of transparency and local press digging out uncomfortable truths. Openness is fundamental to our democracy.

    Says more about the councils than Pickles in my view . . . they should welcome the chance to prove to the public how well they spend our money. Heaven forbid they've been lazy, sloppy and wasted some of it!

  • Comment number 54.

    PS I think your comments re 'destructive' versus 'creative' really are a load of old tosh. How can publicising facts and telling councils not to publish their own friendly newpapers be described as 'destructive?' Nick, I think you're losing it!

  • Comment number 55.

    #44 "evidence based" that is a term that the left have used to close down many debates. Evidence that supports your view agianst what the HMG want to do?. Free market is a personal belief that has much evidence.
    against the command and control of stalin which has shown to have failed.

  • Comment number 56.

    "I've slated the tories on here for ducking a direct question - so I will answer..."

    Now THERES a first.

  • Comment number 57.

    The outstanding thing about my local council is the three or four independent councillors, which seems to echo the track record of the few independents that have somehow managed to get elected into the HoC.

    It was quite a sad day, maybe in the early 1960's, when local councils in our England started to become infected by political party drones.

    That seems to be when the rot started.

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    IR35_SURVIVOR #55.

    "Evidence that supports your view agianst what the HMG want to do?"

    no, evidence that supports the policy objectives of the government of the day.

    "..stalin.."

    well, Hitler's made an appearance already too, I suppose it is time to concede that the debate from now will be stifled by dogmatic ideologues such as your good self. enjoy.

  • Comment number 60.

    Though Eric Pickles highlights the need for rational pay scales he limits his focus to local council pay when he needs to focus too on national government payscales as well as the pay and allowances of those fatcats of Europe, the Euro MPs.

    Many councils I am sure would be quite happy just to have the £80 million which our MPs spend in expenses.

    Government does need to be streamlined and made more cost-effective and accountable as it is in Sweden but I doubt if things will change here until we have more politicians prepared to make sacrifices for the good of the country.

    So far, the policy of this coalition seems to be to make others make the sacrifices not with a token 5% cut but with a 100% reduction through redundancy.

    Fatcats at whatever level of government need to be told that the gravy train is over and that they pay their own way from now on.

  • Comment number 61.

    Whilst i'm not the biggest fan of Erics' general 'manner' I do think he has it right on this issue

    Perhaps the 500 pound limit needs to be raised but to be honest anyone on expenses can't get away with not receipting anything under a fiver! Why should the councils?

    More transparency is required at local government level and I hope this will provide it, for too long now councils have been above reproach and if this idea hands some more control back to local folk then i'm all for it

    Politics aside I think it's a good idea and I think most of the leftist posters here would agree (apart from jon, who at least nails his colours to the mast)

  • Comment number 62.

    WorldofSport:

    I worked for a council for a while and I must admit I'm not completely sure about your question.

    What I do know, though, is that even if you are correct, council staff often make use of 'devolved power', so the councillors don't have to bother with it personally.

    Even if they are personally approving all those jobs and wages, in a decent-sized council I think they might struggle to keep track of everything, or correctly judge whether a particular job was worth a particular salary.

    And as you would know, in councils, it is a job that is awarded a wage, not a person, at least in theory.

    The actual mechanisms behind council pay scales etc. is very complicated and the whole thing has had a massive shake-up thanks to Single Status. One of the potential effects of this is to maintain an appearance of all the councils being locked into a national pay scale, whilst introducing room for some local variation.

    cepe:

    As I understand it, public sector workers can opt-out of having their names published.

    BluesBerry:

    From what I remember of my reading of the Localism Bill, this will apply to those already getting high pay - councils will have to approve their salaries annually in a 'senior pay policy statement'.

  • Comment number 63.

    Freeman @ 38

    Is it possible for a Tory to do something right, in my eyes?

    Yes, of course. I agree with Ken Clarke's policy on prisons (ie that they don't work and we should have fewer prisoners). I think today's Tory party is fairly sound on social issues, like civil partnerships, etc, and I approved of David Cameron's U-turn on - and apology for - Section 28. Tories I have a secret liking for include Michael Gove (how could you not love that guy?), Ken Clarke (of course), Iain Duncan Smith (post-conversion, that is) and funnily enough, Eric Pickles. I don't warm to Cameron or Osborne, but let's face it, nobody does.

    The point I made in my original post wasn't particularly partisan: all governments face the same dilemma. They want to devolve power to local communities - including locally elected politicians - but are aware that local politics is a mire of petty corruption and incompetence. Some would say Westminster is too, but I personally don't think it is.

  • Comment number 64.

    Well, there does seem to be some sort of unspoken rule that Hitler must appear at least once on every thread.

    Our local town hall is a very impressive, imposing sort of building but sometimes I suppress a tiny shudder as I walk past.

    Nothing to do with the councillors and their expenses - no Sir.

    If history was just slightly different, then that building was designated to be our local Gestapo headquarters and a swastika would be flying from the masthead instead of St. George.

  • Comment number 65.

    11 - Susan croft - do you honestly believe everything you read in the sun? its only labour councils that are making cuts isnt it....

    and of course they don't need to do they.....

    and of course they are only cutting services for political reasons only...

    what utter nonsense.

    lets take a closer look at my employer...Barnet council...a flagship conservative council....Finchley the birthplace of Thatcherism....a borough so rabidly blue....

    Barnet council - a by word for inefficiency and waste - I see it with my own eyes. A council who lost millions in Iceland's banks....a council who employs Andrew Travers as a consultant on a 180k a year....a council who wastes more on consultants than anything else....

    a council that is now going to privatise every single one of its departments....its the old mantra private good - public bad.

    a council that is determined to savage services to the elderly and is cutting over 50 million in spending on its services whilst paying its executives vastly inflated salaries.....

    cuts to frontline services are being made as we speak....

    I'm surprised anyone with intelligence would believe Rupert Murdoch's peddling of Tory propaganda.

    Playing party politics with council cuts is sheer ignorance.

    Blue/red/yellow are all making cuts, to frontline services, and the responsibility lies with massively frontloaded cuts to funding from central government.

    The coalition don't want to take the blame hence there happy for councils to take the negative press - thus we see pickles in confrontation politics straight from the Thatcher school of politics.

  • Comment number 66.

    #57 JC

    You're right there - I was calling for all councils to be apolitical, all councilors to be voted in and also that they didn't belong to a political party - along the lines of the civil service but an elected one

    However you look at it councils are political animals and they are biased in their decision making, I certainly think that some councils may be making political statements with regards to cuts in money - if they had to justify them perhaps the outcome would be different, if the locals could see the accounts and say 'How come you want to cut services when we pay blah for something we don't see as necessary?' openness can only help

  • Comment number 67.

    Susan @ 15

    Thanks for clarifying what I believe. What would I do without you?

  • Comment number 68.

    30. At 11:51am on 16 Feb 2011, sagamix wrote:

    Only question is, what on earth is Pickles playing at?
    ------------------------------------------------------
    The Conservatives have been running scared of the wealthy and high paid and have sucked the LibDems into that. To be fair, N.Labour were exactly the same until the deperate need for a 50% IT band became inevitable.

    Perhaps, Eric Pickles is the man to break the mould.

    It appears that he has broken one or two in the past.

    [Could he be setting up some moves that will take him into position as Dave's replacement v Cleggy?]

  • Comment number 69.

    32. notfooledsteve wrote:

    It is usual after a party comes to power that their support at the local level shrinks as the parliament goes on. What Pickles is doing is nothing more than muddying the pitch in advance of this happening for the coalition, in other words getting his retaliation in first, not very creative.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The less Party political involvement in Local Government, the better as far as I’m concerned.
    We need more Independents in Local Government & fewer Party members who, for some pathetic reason, think they have a duty to their Party first rather than the constituents they are supposed to represent.

    I know a Couple of my Local Councillors personally & I wouldn’t trust them to run a bath (& these Goons have MY money...Good Grief).

    Unfortunately, I feel Pickles will pass on the real changes we need to make local Councils more answerable to their Electorate; Turkey’s don’t vote for Christmas & the Central Government need local party support more than ever.

  • Comment number 70.

    48. At 12:52pm on 16 Feb 2011, jon112dk wrote:
    38. At 12:13pm on 16 Feb 2011, Freeman wrote:
    jr, jon and pd...
    Quick query: Is it actually possible for a Tory to do something right in your eyes?
    =========================

    I've slated the tories on here for ducking a direct question - so I will answer...

    No, absolutely impossible.

    It's a bit like someone coming along and making apologies for hitler by saying he did a good job with those autobahns. Sorry, that doesn't answer all the other things he did so I don't really want to hear what a good egg hitler was for building roads or getting germans into employment.

    When the tories are so unethical that they will destroy the lives of a million or more people for ideology and to shift wealth to their already rich backers, then I have little interest to hear that they have eventually come up with one idea that worked.

    I will be continuing to focus my attention on their daily fiascos.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Fair do's.

    It will therefore be impossible, in future, for jon112dk to produce a post worth reading ...

  • Comment number 71.

    defined more by its compulsions than its content.Your targets are so stereotyped to be non-existent."

    Or is it only stereotyping when I do it, huh? :o)"

    Some variation in pitch would be useful,reduce the affected rage,then move to more economy in your use of words,if you have something to say in can be said simply,finally find a language beyond stereotypes which inhibit your capacity for saying something interesting or original.

    Orwell called stereotypes the small change of social life.They cannot carry the burden of big ideas.

  • Comment number 72.

    Pickles needs to get a lot tougher.
    Councils are "publishing" their spending of items £500 or more, but the details are useless; they don't mention enough detail in what they publish for it to be usable by the public.
    eg:
    "£2000 paid to [generic contractor that does anything] for project costs"
    There is absolutely no point publishing the individual "items" unless the descriptions allow you to work out what the spending was actually for, and at the moment no council in the country is publishing the info in a usable format with relevant descriptions, it's all just by generic category and NEVER mentions what it was really for.

    eg instead of saying:
    "£500 paid to [generic contractor] for stationery"
    they need to say:
    "£500 paid to [generic contractor] for 1 ream of A4 paper"
    that way we'll know when the council are burning money.

    Until they publish that info, I have no sympathy for councils who are blaming central government for their budget cuts, because judging by the negligence I've already seen in our council, I'm sure they're still burning millions of tax payer pounds, and cutting front-line services, and then blaming the government.

  • Comment number 73.

    Eric Pickles...

    What a man, waht a legend...

    Clearing up labour's mess...

  • Comment number 74.

    #57 JohnConstable, I really think that you make a valid point. Party politics has ruined localism; while our councillors always have an eye on their potential career path to Westminster properly democratic decisions that suit the local environment will be rare. I have consistently thought that the devolved Scottish Parliament would be far more effective if MSPs were banned from any political affilition and truly represented their local constituencies. Of course this system would rely on retaining a first past the post electoral system and having some kind of moderator to break stalemates. I know I am living in cloud cuckoo land but wouldn't it be great if party politics were banned from local councils?

  • Comment number 75.

    72. labourbankruptedusall

    Correct: The information on its own – without context – is absolutely useless.
    I’d go further by suggesting that the costs of producing such information are, in themselves, a waste of money.

    Would Joe Public even know what they were looking at anyway; it would require full time staff to explain it to them...more unproductive staff I’ll be bound.

  • Comment number 76.

    . At 10:02am on 16 Feb 2011, Susan-Croft wrote:
    Bryhers 263

    "Thats because you are not true lefties, you are Labour lefties there is a World of difference. True lefties dislike the left Labour elite as much as they do Conservatives."

    Your comment would surely apply to Eric Pickles,ex marxist- Leninist, who is believed to be using Marxian insurrectionary techniques to open up councils to public scrutiny.

    This propensity to conversion is always dangerous.It is arguable that German fascism rose to power on the same soil as Marxist revolution.It involved class mobilization,huge rallies,control of the streets,terror as an instrument of policy.

    The most distinguished Marxist I knew,historian and diplomat who had debated with Trotsky,used Marxism as an instrument of analysis with no interest in the egalitarian ends Marx thought important.
    This was no conversion but cold intellectual power.

    Change from Marxist-Leninism to Toryism by Mr Pickles is a hell of a big step and involves an intellectual and emotional leap equivalent to religious conversion.Caeser feared lean and hungry men,I fear ideologues.

  • Comment number 77.

    "However, Eric Pickles's closest colleagues see method in what others see as the minister's madness"

    In what way can publishing expenditure of a tax-payer funded organisation be considered "madness" by any reasonable person?

    In the private sector, if you don't provide a receipt with a meaningful description of why you needed to spend the money and exactly what it was for, then you don't get the money; simple as that.

    Can't be bothered to get a receipt or provide details when you only spend a fiver? Simple then; you don't get refunded the money and it comes out of your own personal pocket.

    You can buy off-the-shelf systems that process this kind of stuff so that it's publishable in an automated way online.

    This is not rocket science. This is very very simple expenditure recording and publishing, and everyone in the private sector has these systems (as well as purchasing systems where you can get bulk-discounts; the council can use those too but they don't).

    They need to follow how the private sector does it; it won't cost much to do, and will save them millions, and will allow the public to see all the information they want/need to know.

    The councils will fight against it though, because once all the info is published in a meaningful format then the public will learn how much money they're burning, and they won't allow that to be known unless Pickles forces them to do it by law.

  • Comment number 78.

    70#

    In future?

    That implies he has in the past produced posts worth reading.

    I disagree! :o))

  • Comment number 79.

    why is it we have tory ideas bring hitler onto the blog, then you mention stalin and all of a sudden your views as described as dogmatic.

    or is this censorship from the left in the form of more PC

  • Comment number 80.

    Its not rage bryhers, its that halfway house between amusement and exasperation.

  • Comment number 81.

    27. At 11:36am on 16 Feb 2011, growcoaching wrote:

    As for Labour Councils being by far the worst, unless you have lived in several areas with several different regimes, I don't think anyone can judge. But the Lib Dems in Newcastle did spend £1.4 million to create a 15 yard bus lane outside the civic centre...
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Harringey in north London installed a cycle lane much shorter than that that ended against a tree.

    Don't know what it cost, but they are lucky to get away with not being sued for millions by a cyclist with poor sight.

  • Comment number 82.

    #73
    What a pickled egg!

  • Comment number 83.

    "BUT you will make it a left right issue" - 35 @ 51

    No, I promise you I won't.

    See? ... I haven't.

    (Robin at 73 though, different story. What's that all about?)

  • Comment number 84.

    Although I agree with Pickles's purge on overpaid councillors, I still thoroughly disagree with his desire to see important decision-making handed over to the public. Yes, councils often get decisions wrong, but they should be reformed not decimated. I have no expertise in waste management, nor, I'm sure, do my neighbours. Sometimes councils are necessary!

  • Comment number 85.

    "Perhaps, Eric Pickles is the man to break the mould." - snuff @ soixante vingt

    Well you never know. If he was to slap some councils around (and for the right reasons) without fear or favour - making no distinction between Labour and Torylition - I guess he'd earn some plaudits from one or two people.

  • Comment number 86.

    JohnConstable #64.

    "Our local town hall is a very impressive, imposing sort of building but sometimes I suppress a tiny shudder as I walk past."

    Waltham Forest?

  • Comment number 87.

    sagamix...


    you see, labour's mess, just like when someone has been sick in the car, takes longer to clean up than first thought.

    Firstly you have to get the soap and suds out. Then clear up the mess, then the air freshener comes out.

    But the moral of an unwholly mess, is that it gets messier before it gets cleaner.

    Clearing up labour's mess...

  • Comment number 88.

    @62 - Fair Pay

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    My very limited knowledge of Single Status pay indicates that rather than leveling wages upwards, councils have chosen to level downwards to make things equal. Maybe it is a bit of both but to be quite hinest my limited knowledge is nothing more than anecdotal. It would be interesting to see hard data relating to this.

    I hadn't considered 'devolved power' and I have no doubt that applies at the lower and mid grades. It could add up to a lot of money and it should be scrutinised.

    However, I suspect but can't prove that at the higher grades councillors would take a keen interest and particularly at Director level. Really, I think at a local level these things have always been hot potatoes and something the local media has always taken an interest in too.

    I would be very surprised to discover any instances where the remuneration for the post of Chief Executive, or a Director, or Depute Director, or Assistant Director, say, has not been approved by the full council or a council sub-committee, or is in fact not well known to councillors, and other council staff, and the local media.

    In fact I would be astonished if elected representatives did not insist on being involved and overseeing these things if only to assert over the council official that the councillor is more important - and more accountable - than the official. I would also have thought that since councillors can be surcharged for overspending they would have been keen to tightly monitor the wages bill.

    If there is a problem with councillors not approving senior salaries I would have thought it was the elected members rather than the council officials who were at fault.

    Call me a cynical old Hector, but I am struggling to escape the conclusion that there is not a lot here that isn't already done or which shouldn't already be done by councillors, and that by focusing on council officials it is little more than an attempted diversion from the Government's role in the cuts. Smells a bit of BS.

  • Comment number 89.

    64. At 1:46pm on 16 Feb 2011, JohnConstable wrote:
    Well, there does seem to be some sort of unspoken rule that Hitler must appear at least once on every thread.
    79. At 2:42pm on 16 Feb 2011, IR35_SURVIVOR wrote:
    why is it we have tory ideas bring hitler onto the blog, then you mention stalin and all of a sudden your views as described as dogmatic.
    ====================

    Hitler, Stalin, Pol-pot? - No problem with me which one you pick.

    I need to make the explanation simple for tories. The underlying principle is that when someone does lots of evil things, doing one thing that is good (or even one thing that actually works) is not worth mentioning - they are still evil.

    (Fubar - the day you ever answer a question or even post on the topic of the blog will be worthy of celebration.)

  • Comment number 90.

    Oops!

    Fiasco of the day … Unemployment UP

    Still sounding like option (d) – labour left the economy in a mess and the tories made it even worse.

  • Comment number 91.

    I'll just reiterate what I said the day before yesterday, and that is there is linkage between the Big Society and local Councils. The basic concept underpinning the Big Society is that local people better know what they want locally than the State does regionally (or centrally). Giving local people greater say in what services are delivered locally is at the core. And this is where local Councils being held more accountable for their actions is, in a sense, the way in which the Big Society is delivered.

    When resources from the State are reduced we either (a) carry on doing what we did before but do less, or (b) work more efficiently, inventively and with greater imagination to deliver better service for less. However, the local population must hold their Councils to account. And that means local people getting more involved. You don't get something for nothing.

    Curiously, it aught to appeal greatly to socialists or left-leaning folks because isn't that what it's all about? Being active, being represented and making sure fat cats don't lord it over the proletariat ... it's just in this case that the Councils are the fat cats!! Is everything they do designed with the simple mission of delivering the best possible service for the most reasonable cost? To treat everyone as fairly as possible, and serve their constituents? I suspect not. The more economical they are the more services they can provide the people. There's definitely some common ground here - interesting!

  • Comment number 92.

    78. At 2:42pm on 16 Feb 2011, Fubar_Saunders wrote:
    70#

    In future?

    That implies he has in the past produced posts worth reading.

    I disagree! :o))
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    Ah but he has only just today, this afternoon even, committed himself ...
    ;-)
    (Will he re-surface under another moniker, as I understand some posters do?)

  • Comment number 93.

    Amazing how many labour sycophants trash Pickles instead of labour councils like Manchester and Liverpool (and any other councils of whatever political majority) who continue paying huge salaries to council chiefs and councillors, and to the contactors working for the councils to provide services.
    How many small charities need small sums of grants from councils to continue providing the local people with worthwhile services ?
    Reductions of 10% - 20% of these high paid council employees should be made before closing these charities or libraries etc.

    Well done Pickles. I hope the council tax payers in these rotten councils throw the appropriate councillors out of work at the earliest opportunity.

  • Comment number 94.

    Not sure you're achieving a great deal, Robin. With this.

  • Comment number 95.

    "48. At 12:52pm on 16 Feb 2011, jon112dk wrote:
    38. At 12:13pm on 16 Feb 2011, Freeman wrote:

    Quick query: Is it actually possible for a Tory to do something right in your eyes?
    =========================

    No, absolutely impossible."

    Freeman, just shows the blind hysteria of sections of the left.

    I just wish I could be there when a tory warns Jon not to step off the pavement in front of a truck. He'll step out anyway.

  • Comment number 96.

    @87 Robin

    You are another one who thinks in terms of soundbites and what Paul Krugman calls "zombie lies". Evidence doesn't matter to you.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/16/decade-of-the-living-dead/

    Our present economic crisis is the result of lax regulation, in Britain and worldwide. Britain has more problems that, say, Germany, because our financial sector was/is too large in relation to manufacturing.

    Were the Tories calling for more regulation and rebalancing towards manufacturing? No. In opposition, George Osbornes office was being sponsored by hedge funds. His economic world-view was shaped by the very people whose speculative activities contributed to the state we're in. But then Osbo's economic credentials are hardly impressive. His lauding the Irish "Miracle" will embarrass him forever:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/11/ireland-osborne-tax-irish

    Listen to Mervyn King:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/inflation_mervyn_and_me.html

    Did he cite the general level of public spending as the cause of our problems? No he blamed the financial crisis. In Parliament, only Vince Cable (before he lost his halo) had the courage and foresight to raise misgivings before the deluge.

    But you are never interested in facts or complexities. You make a ridiculously facile analogy between the country's economic situation and vomit in a car, and then seem to think you are clever. In fact, you're more like a little boy namecalling in a playground.

    "Labour's mess, Labour's mess, ner ner ner!"

    Pathetic!

  • Comment number 97.

    re: 93. At 3:45pm on 16 Feb 2011, FairandTrue

    "Amazing how many labour sycophants trash Pickles instead of labour councils like Manchester and Liverpool..."

    ah, well, in all fairness, it's not just the labour councils (although admittedly they're the worst offenders of wasting money and also of blaming the government).

    Our council's a tory one, but they still blame central government and still produce their propaganda newspapers at tax-payers' expense, sending newspapers to every single house in the county which is basically just 20 pages of "the evil central government have taken our money away, we're doing everything perfectly, it's not possible to save any more money through efficiency as the council are already running things with absolute perfection. by the way, I'm afraid we can't let you see the details of what we're actually spending your money on" self-preservation rubbish.

  • Comment number 98.

    Eric Pickles was once a Marxist? I had assumed that the BBC employed experienced journalists. When was Eric Pickles a believer in Marxist-Leninist thought? According to Wikipedia he joined the Young Conservatives when he was 16. So somewhere between 0-16 he was a believer. An age from my experience a lot of young men are still believing in aliens and UFO's. There is also a gap between then and the age of 27 when he stood for Council. For a man such as Pickles to be strangely reticent about the critical years of early adulthood is quite telling. Nick Robinson gives veil of rationale for a process of government that is thinner than moth's wing. Eric Pickles is slashing and burning local government because the coalition needs an election war chest to bring in tax cuts in an effort to win the next election. Same old, same old Tories

  • Comment number 99.

    #93. At 3:45pm on 16 Feb 2011, FairandTrue wrote:
    "Amazing how many labour sycophants trash Pickles instead of labour councils like Manchester and Liverpool (and any other councils of whatever political majority) who continue paying huge salaries to council chiefs and councillors"

    Now that wasn't very fair was it? Let's look at the figures:

    Top 10 of councils with individuals earning over £100k:

    1. Wandsworth London Borough Council. Con controlled
    2. Cornwall Council. NOC, Con majority
    3. Kent County Council. Con leader
    4. Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council. Lab
    5. Westminster London Borough Council. Con controlled
    6. Greenwich London Borough Council. Lab controlled
    7. Essex County Council. Con controlled
    8. Liverpool City Council. Lab controlled
    9. Southwark London Borough Council. Lab controlled
    10. Camden London Borough Council. Lab controlled

    Bit more of a mixed picture, hmm?

  • Comment number 100.

    I would like to nominate Eric Pickles as Mock Mayor of Old Woodstock
    The people there have a tradition, which in my view should be more widely adopted, of electing a mock mayor and then throwing the newly elected incumbent in the river.
    I can't help but think that EP would make a very good splash!

 

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