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.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Local government and Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url for Twitter and emails.


  • 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:

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDenis Mollison 29th Nov - 3:49pm
    In sum, western powers have dug such a deep hole in the Middle East that the only thing we can do is keep digging? You...
  • User AvatarJohn Roffey 29th Nov - 3:43pm
    Nick Thornsby There was an article in the Guardian, by Giles Fraser, on Thursday entitled: "You won’t win a war against Isis if you don’t...
  • User AvatarGlenn 29th Nov - 3:00pm
    Eddie. As I've said before. I think you guys demanding more involvement will get your way and the results will be more of the same...
  • User AvatarJudy Abel 29th Nov - 2:51pm
    @ Richard. Making light of knife crime is really inappropriate.
  • User AvatarMary Steele 29th Nov - 2:45pm
    Is the third sector inclusive or even a more fair alternative to local government? In this area of multi-thousands of people we have a third...
  • User AvatarMick Taylor 29th Nov - 2:45pm
    Actually the point I was making about Northern Ireland had far less to do with the IRA than about the British Government. The British Government...