Tag Archives: eric pickles

“Lib Dems veto Pickles’ Council Tax cuts”

From the FT:

One of the government’s main tax-cutting drives has been to encourage councils to keep tax rises to a minimum. Ministers have done this in two ways: firstly, by giving councils a cash incentive to freeze council tax; and secondly, by forcing any council that wants to raise tax by 2 per cent or more to put it to a local referendum.

Of course, any self-respecting council is going to set a rate that’s just below the threshold. Eric Pickles was not chuffed and wanted to lower that threshold to 1.5%.

He did not get his way, thanks to the …

Posted in News | Also tagged | 28 Comments

Has Eric Pickles destroyed the government’s role in communities?

Pickles Hot AirEric is clearly bored out of his mind. He’s been raging around about parking, yellow lines, even about bin collections in Wales – but then he likes to bash the Welsh. In my mind, he is truly the minister of hot air and no substance.

In recent months he has taken meddling in applications for really rather small gypsy and traveller sites. Now he has somewhat imperiously declared that he will call in planning appeals for small renewable energy projects for his own decision (£). When he first came to office, Pickles said he would only use this right occasionally. Now, it seems, such call ins are becoming his hobby.

I can only guess Pickles is doing this because he is bored. He claims he is doing so because he wants:

To give particular scrutiny to planning appeals involving renewable energy developments so that I can consider the extent to which the new practice guidance is meeting the government’s intentions.

Nonsense.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 10 Comments

EU birth certificates myth swallowed whole by the anti-European press

It may be the silly season, but the latest Euromyth to ruffle right-wing feathers takes silliness to a whole new level. The Express, Mail, Sun and Telegraph unanimously announced at the weekend that Brussels wants to remove the royal crest from British birth certificates and replace it with the hated EU flag. The Mail declared Brits would be “stamped with the EU flag from the cradle to the grave” while the Sun led with the rather lame “B-EU-rths ‘n deaths”.

They gave generous space to Eric Pickles, who fumed:

This imposed Euro-law is part of an

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 20 Comments

Opinion: Pickles pensions off councillors

The winning Kendal Town CouncillorsSome of you may have heard this brief anecdote before.

Some years ago a civil servant appeared in St Albans attempting to sell some ‘new’ ideas from the Government of the day about local government. He stood up before various district and county councillors in Hertfordshire and announced that ‘in future the Government wanted councillors to represent the people to the town hall rather than the other way round.’

He said it without malice or irony and as a result was not lynched – turning up some years later to dismantle the Audit Commission.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 25 Comments

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 …

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Also tagged | 10 Comments

Opinion: Making a Pickle of the politics of planning

Eric Pickles is a great populist and masterful at landing a political punch. During Monday’s debate on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, he was being pressed by Hilary Benn. Will he, Benn demanded, name a lagging planning authority that might be brought into special measures under the bill? “I am very happy to name the worst, which is Hackney,” Pickles told MPs with evident glee.

Poor Labour controlled Hackney, named and shamed as the worst planning authority in England. Except it isn’t – by far. The furious mayor of …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 16 Comments

Eric Pickles: are you a cigar-chomping Commie?

Dear Eric

You always give a fine performance. Yesterday you told us with passion how you became a Conservative. It was a nice story, but does your claim to have a developed a “burning dislike of oppressive state bureaucracy” match the reality?

Do you remember localism? You did not mention it yesterday. The great localism project, you might recall, was launched on the twin platforms of the Big Society and Open Source Planning. The Big Society has slipped through the cracks of the political stage, but you enshrined localism in the Localism Act 2011.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Opinion: Is this the start of Plan A+?

It looks like the coming months will see new initiatives to boost the economy, following the second quarter contraction (now revised up slightly to -0.5%) and a record trade deficit.

As The Spectator reports,

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 4 Comments

Opinion: What is keeping councils awake at night?

The Local Government Conference met in conference in Birmingham last week.

I am slightly (only very slightly) embarrassed to confess that I have attended every conference since the LGA was created in 1997. In that first year the conference (in Manchester) ran from Tuesday until Friday. There was a gala night on the set of Coronation Street (this is apparently a television soap opera for those of you too busy each evening with your politics).

John Prescott and Gordon Brown turned up to praise the new body’s birth and the role of local government (delicious irony in hindsight), John Bird and John …

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

Opinion: An Unlikely Defender of the Faith

Eric Pickles recently sent forth an encyclical and counterblast to the “illiberal and intolerant secularists” seeking to overturn “the right to worship  a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty” and reverse “the fight for religious freedom in British history, deeply entwined with our political freedom”.

Our Town Clerk at once e-mailed us all a copy – on the very day, as it happened, that I went to Hertford for a County Council Meeting.

As usual, the meeting started at 10 30 a.m. And as usual those councillors who wished to pray met in the Council Chamber a little earlier at 10 20 a.m. Nothing wrong with that – their Prayer Meeting is not part …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 21 Comments

Opinion: Four ways we can tackle the housing crisis

Housing is moving up the agenda -– and looks like being a key issue in next year’s London elections. The Greater London Authority now has more powers over housing and given London is still dogged by a lack of affordable homes to rent, lease or buy, despite the recession, it’s reasonable for Londoners to expect the next Mayor and Assembly to take action.

Building more homes in a time of public sector cuts will be a challenge, and even using what we’ve got more efficiently will take a lot of cash. So we will need a range of ideas …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 24 Comments

Should councils be able to cap the number of second and holiday homes in their area?

Earlier this week, the Lib Dems’ Communities and Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell wrote here on LibDemVoice about the Coalition’s measures to increase councils’ powers to cut tax relief to those with second homes:

… our plans to allow local authorities to charge an Empty Homes Premium – up to an extra 50% of council tax – on any property that has been vacant for two years or more. Crucially, we are retaining the exemptions for properties empty as a result of the death of an owner, or if the owner has moved into hospital or to give or

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 7 Comments

First Sure Start director has a positive verdict on new government’s children policies

Naomi Eisenstadt was the first director of the Sure Start program when it was created under Labour and in a press push around the publication of her new book has some interesting things to say about both Sure Start’s origins and the current coalition government.

On Sure Start’s creation and then rapid expansion, she points out how it didn’t fit the claimed public emphasis of the time on evidence-based policy because the expansion was rushed through before the initial pilots have been evaluated. However, she thinks pushing ahead regardless was right:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

Lynne Featherstone vs Steve Hilton on maternity pay

From yesterday’s Observer:

In a wide-ranging interview with the Observer, Featherstone said it was vital the coalition delivered on its family-friendly rhetoric … In a forthright attack on some of the advisers shaping government policy, she criticised the role of Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist tasked with reporting to the prime minister on how to cut regulation on business. Beecroft is understood to have recommended a U-turn on government policies on shared parental leave and flexible working.

The proposals, outlined in a white paper, would allow couples greater freedom to co-ordinate maternity and paternity leave. A separate proposal would make it

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , and | 1 Comment

Opinion: Floccinaucinihilipilification

“For most people, the only visible service that they get from the council is the removal of refuse” – Eric Pickles, Daily Mail, 30th September

Floccinaucinihilipilification – the action or habit of estimating something as worthless, Oxford English Dictionary

This may or not be the longest word in the English language, but today is a rare chance to use it. It sums up Eric Pickles after his eccentric comment today about council services .

The honourable people who empty our bins every week or every fortnight have hundreds of thousands of colleagues working alongside them in their councils: 1.7 million according to the LGA – …

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

Chris White writes: What would you do with £250 million?

This is the lottery dream, of course. Give quite a bit to charity. Pay off the mortgage. Buy a yacht and invest the rest sensibly for the future.

It’s not so clear what you do if you’re a government department.

Councillors across the country are waking up to the astonishing news that the Department for Communities and Local Government has been opening cupboards and jamjars and has managed to find £250 million it had not previously accounted for.

Not new money from the Treasury. Not money from other projects. But shiny, otherwise unused, cash.

So: what does the Department do? Allocate it …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Hooray for Conservative MP Andrew Selous

Long-time readers will know that I’ve often criticised the widespread practice of local authority Chief Executives pocketing extra payments for running elections, even though most of the work is done by others, they are already well paid and everyone knows that the work they do is part of the job.

It’s even worse that such payments were increased ahead of the 2010 general election despite no-one first checking how much the pay increase would end up costing, that the payments are not just a one-off but also bump up people’s pension entitlements and – with the exception of the …

Posted in Election law | Also tagged | 7 Comments

Opinion: Distinctive positions on housing

There is no doubt some soul searching going on at the moment, in part as a consequence of the poor result at the Inverclyde by-election. I’m sure the leadership will seek to dismiss poor election results at this stage in the electoral cycle as to be expected when you’re “in government”. But that can hardly carry much weight, given the Tories aren’t doing anywhere near as badly. It seems to me that rather deeper reflection is needed. Is it clear any more what the Liberal Democrats stand for? Why would someone – beyond the most unwaveringly committed – vote for …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 41 Comments

Chris White writes: What do you want for your birthday?

I am fifty tomorrow. Relatives sometimes ask me what I would like for my birthday and I reply with things like ‘ties, jacket, Ipad, North American art…’. The usual.

This year, though, a real treat: a meeting with Eric Pickles. I have already given the standard response to the organisers: ‘You shouldn’t have….It’s what I’ve always wanted…’

They have even arranged for a large posse of other Lib Dem group leaders to join me to make the hour go swimmingly.
Apparently there is no agenda as such. Just an opportunity to put across some messages.

But what, in a single hour?

Clearly we …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Eric Pickles wins Talking Rubbish prize

A few weeks ago, the Voice highlighted that three Tory ministers — Eric Pickles, Carloline Spelman and Bob Neill — were up for a very special gong: the Friends of the Earth Talking Rubbish Award to help debunk the myths peddled by right-wing newspapers and some Tory ministers who ‘like to trash recycling’.

Well, after 1,000 online votes were cast, there is now a winner: yes, that jolly, red-faced Communities secretary Mr Pickles is the victor for peddling the myth that recycling means everyone is terrified of the ‘bin police’. “The iron fist of the municipal state has come down on people for the most minor of bin breaches,” he spluttered.

Announcing Mr Pickles’ huge win, Friends of the Earth’s waste campaigner Julian Kirby commented:

“Government Ministers have been keen to trash recycling when in reality it’s more popular and successful than ever. Eric Pickles in particular has been at war with councils when he should be supporting them to cut the amount we needlessly throw away. David Cameron needs to take control of his hysterical, squabbling Ministers and set a goal to halve the nation’s black bag waste by 2020.”

You can find out more about the Friends’ Talking half as much rubbish campaign here.

In the meantime, to celebrate his award let’s take the opportunity once again to re-live one of Mr Pickles’ best-loved TV appearances:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

Which Tory minister do you think is Talking Rubbish most? Spelman, Pickles or Neill?

Friends of the Earth is inviting the public to help decide the winner of its Talking Rubbish Award to help debunk the myths peddled by right-wing newspapers and some Tory ministers who ‘like to trash recycling’. The three nominees are as follows:

    The myth: Recycling means everyone is terrified of the ‘bin police’
    “The iron fist of the municipal state has come down on people for the most minor of bin breaches.” Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary

    The reality:
    Mr Pickles – and some noisy media commentators – give the impression that people live in fear of the ‘bin police’. In reality, studies show

Posted in Local government | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Two major tax reforms the government should see through

There’s been some promising chatter in the run up to next week’s Budget about two major changes to our tax system, both of which have often been talked about across the political spectrum and both of which politicians have previously ended up shying away from because of the political hurdles involved.

First is integrating income tax and national insurance. As The Independent reported,

The move is expected to be signalled by George Osborne in his Budget next Wednesday. Although such a huge change would take years to implement, the Chancellor is determined to be seen as a reformer and not just

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 10 Comments

Should local councils still have to run long, wordy adverts in local newspapers?

It’s very common to see local councils advertising in local newspapers, and they are often one of the main sources of advertising revenue for the local press. That can cause conflicts over whether there is improper influence at work and also over whether councils should shift money elsewhere, risking plunging the local press into enforced cutbacks in its news coverage as income shrinks.

But there is another question, which is whether many of the adverts are any good – especially those which are text heavy and laden with legal terms required by law. That’s the case that Bristol Council’s Peter Holt …

Posted in Local government and News | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Eric Pickles gets it right

Not quite what Liberal Democrats always says about Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, but his pronouncement this week about access to local government meetings was spot on.

His department’s press release says,

Councils should open up their public meetings to local news ‘bloggers’ and routinely allow online filming of public discussions as part of increasing their transparency, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said today.

To ensure all parts of the modern-day media are able to scrutinise Local Government, Mr Pickles believes councils should also open up public meetings to the ‘citizen journalist’ as well as the mainstream media, especially as important budget

Posted in Local government and News | Also tagged , and | 10 Comments

Chris White writes: thoughts on the letter to the Times

Last week saw much excitement when 90 leading Liberal Democrat councillors wrote to the Times criticising the leadership of Eric Pickles. I was not one of them.

In 2009 I thought long and hard about the circumstances in which such letters are appropriate and as a result offer 6 tests:

  1. Is the objective clear?
  2. Is the objective likely to be more achievable as a result of the letter?
  3. Does it avoid attacking our own side?
  4. Is the timing appropriate?
  5. Is the medium appropriate?
  6. Does it avoid looking elitist and self-regarding?

The letter to the Guardian from members of the Federal Policy Committee during the Autumn Conference …

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

Lib Dem council leaders attack Pickles over speed and scale of cuts

Over ninety senior Liberal Democrat councillors have written to The Times (£) today, attacking the front-loading of local government cuts imposed by central government. The letter is as interesting for what it doesn’t say as for what it does. Despite the spin placed on the letter by the BBC this morning, the letter does not deny either the need for cuts, nor the deficit which has required them. Rather the letter argues that the cuts are too big and proceeding too quickly, and that councils could protect more frontline services and save more money in the long term if spending reductions were carried out in a more controlled manner. The senior councillors are stating publicly what many Lib Dems in local government  have been muttering for a while: that councils recognise that they must play their part in reducing the national deficit and controlling spending, the speed and depth of the cuts to government grants have left local authorities with little room to manoeuvre.

The attacks have centred on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, EricPickles, who despite his local government background is widely seen as not having put up a fight for his own departmental spending and having been too keen to offer cuts. The letter is scathing about  the seeming inability of Pickles to work with local councils to promote efficiencies and minimise the impact of the cuts on vulnerable people. The Secretary of State has kept a public silence over the letter, leaving Lib Dem Communities Minister Andrew Stunell to call on the party not to fall out over “pointless debate”.  Stunell said, “Whilst I fully understand the real challenges councils face I think it will be much better to direct all our energy to solving these problems rather than falling out between ourselves”. The full text of the letter is reproduced below.

Posted in Local government and News | Also tagged | 42 Comments

Chris White writes: LGA all in a Pickles

Lib Dem Voice, the Local Government Chronicle and the Daily Mirror all featured a story recently about council leaders reaching the end of their tether with Eric Pickles. The event was a routine meeting of the Local Government Group Executive (LGA to you and me). I was one of those quoted as hurling my toys out of the pram. The Tories were more muted at that meeting but have nevertheless been pretty vocal elsewhere in their hostility to the Secretary of State for Local Government.

Surely it was ever thus? New Government comes in. Local Government gets its hopes up. New …

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Also tagged | 14 Comments

Local government news: Lib Dems attack Pickles, Tory councillor quits

From the Local Government Chronicle:

Furious senior Liberal Democrat councillors have labelled communities secretary Eric Pickles “incompetent”, called for the abolition of his department, and urged the sector to take its concerns about his recent conduct to the top of government…

The comments were matched by their Labour counterparts with Salford City Council leader, John Merry (Lab), calling on Mr Pickles to relinquish his post…

Conservative councillors at the executive meeting were less vociferous but not one defended ministers during an hour-long discussion on the local government finance settlement, while LGA chairman, Dame Margaret Eaton (Con) said she was “saddened” by some

Posted in Local government and News | Also tagged , , and | 11 Comments

Brian Coleman: the secret shrinking violet

It’s not often that Conservative London Assembly Member Brian Coleman comes over as a shy, quiet, introverted man who likes to shun the public spotlight.

But I’m sure that’s why he is proposing to ban members of the London Fire Authority from asking him questions at future meetings. Nothing to do with wanting to avoid scrutiny for his actions, I’m sure.

Just as it was his shrinking violet nature that previously made him ban both questions and TV cameras from a meeting.

But a little unfortunate given the national Conservative Party’s frequent message about how important transparency and accountability is, don’t …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Opinion: Address wars – an armistice?

We take addresses for granted. How hard an issue can they be? Put an address on an envelope and it gets there, a gratifying proportion of the time. Stick a postcode in a satnav and it shows you a route which usually gets you to your destination. Add an address to a name and you usually have an unambiguous reference to a single person.

The problem lies with the word ‘usually’. Get an address wrong and a parcel doesn’t get delivered; the ambulance or fire engine arrives too late to save a life; a Council Tax isn’t collected; a household gets …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 9 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 22nd Oct - 2:25am
    It's a good article, but the banks are whooping most areas in society when it comes to promoting immigration and race equality, so there was...
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 22nd Oct - 2:10am
    I agree too. The polarization that is evident in Nick's choices, and reactively (I suppose) in this article's headline, does no electoral good whatsoever.
  • User AvatarRichard Dean 22nd Oct - 2:03am
    I wonder if Peter Hayes's experience tells more about LibDems that immigrants. It seems like he's saying that they're ok if they serve you well,...
  • User AvatarSue Doughty 22nd Oct - 1:29am
    Tony Greaves is right about the democratic deficit (and yes, it is totally unfair to attack him because he is in the Lords - rather...
  • User AvatarSteve Way 22nd Oct - 12:39am
    @Psi Not sure where my comment says that it shouldn't be done? It should have been done earlier, that would have been the right thing....
  • User AvatarRoland 22nd Oct - 12:38am
    "I had the misfortune of staying in a Travel Lodge, breakfast was in a greasy spoon ‘restaurant’ staff were English and did not care, compare...