Eric Pickles’ 50 money-saving ideas show that he has no idea about local government

Wedenesday saw the announcement of the local government funding settlement for 2013-14. As expected, councils across England will be facing even more cuts in their already-stretched budgets, and wondering just how they continue to deliver services in the face of ever-widening budget gaps. (See here or here for examples of how a funding squeeze and rising costs are impacting councils)

Of course, local government should be glad that we have a Secretary of State who understands the issues affecting the sector and is prepared to fight its cause in Whitehall while puncturing some of the myths that are propagated about it. Unfortunately, we don’t have that Secretary of State, we have Eric Pickles instead.

So instead of assistance and help from the Secretary of State, there is instead a hectoring of local government and a stubborn refusal to engage with anything councils have actually done to address the financial crisis. This is exemplified in the list of fifty money-saving ideas (pdf file) the Department for Communities and Local Government have published. This was accompanied by Pickles stating that councils must ‘do every single one’ of these ideas. Yet again, Pickles proves that ‘localism’ is just a sham – even more so than under Labour, his DCLG expects councils to dance to Whitehall’s tune in exchange for funding.

The general consensus from people I know in local government to the list has been ‘but we’re doing all that already!’ The advice is basic and simplistic, the easy salami-slicing cuts like sharing back office functions, hot desking and renting out council property that councils have been doing for years already. It’s also coupled with various items of had-right Tory political dogma that seems to believe councils are wasting fortunes on bottled water, Common Purpose and trade unions. There’s no recognition within that document – or in any of Pickles’ public statements – of how local government functions in 2012, or of the massive financial pressures the sector is facing.

This isn’t a one-off, though. Since becoming Secretary of State, Pickles has shown an unwillingness to accept that local government has changed dramatically since his heyday in Bradford over twenty years ago. Pickles’ pronouncements on local government are those of an attention seeking backbencher or Daily Mail columnist, showing none of the understanding of the sector one would expect from a Secretary of State. What local government needs in times like these is a DCLG that works with it to help lessen the pressure. Pickles’ centralist and dictatorial version of ‘localism’ instead threatens to irreparably damage local government.

* Nick Barlow is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Castle Ward on Colchester Borough Council. He has been blogging at What You Can Get Away With for far too long.

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10 Comments

  • The only thing I object to in this article is the description of Pickles’ shambles of a time in Bradford as his heyday. It might have been his; it certainly wasn’t ours.

  • Eric Pickles is making cuts in local government that won’t be to the detriment of the tory party electorate; what we will see is that a previously LDP support completely and well and truely wiped out in areas once held such as Liverpool.

  • Well, thank goodness Lib Dems are part of the government and can reign in these destructive excesses.

  • David Wilkinson 22nd Dec '12 - 9:41am

    Pickles, the man who wrecked Bradford with his ideas.
    if you read his 50 ideas he’s actualy taken most of them from local government, apart from hus usal nutty ones of slashing pay and curbing unions.
    Anyone in a large scale organisation either private or public is well aware of the benefits of full time union officals to deal with issues.
    With cuts of 40% some councils will ceased to be effective and whatever to Eric’s idea of Localism

  • The link to the document is picking up the URL of this site and making it fail.

    The direct link to the document is:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/39264/50_ways_2.pdf

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