Eric Pickles MP: Are you up for it?
I’ve got a question for our Conservative Councillors – are you up for it?
Or, to put it another way - are you part of the dependency culture?
Do you want us to replace one set of targets with another?
Do you really want a Conservative Government to scrap the raft of bureaucracy and regulation that stifles local democracy, or are you just looking for the comfy option?
Dependency culture runs deep. Unless you have been a Councillor for at least a couple of decades you will have no experience of exercising unfettered power and freewill to make decisions for your local community.
I asked local government leaders recently, “do you want us to tear down the prison walls of regulations or do you want me to build you a more comfortable cell?” Perhaps one with a better view, and a more humane jailer?
There is something soporifically comfortable about CPA (Comprehensive Performance Assessment)- you tick the boxes, you get the stars, and then you try to persuade your electorate that this is important.
My own personal preference is to turn the bulldozer towards the prison of regulation with my foot firmly on the accelerator.
In my view there is only one part that matters in CPA, and that is the opinion research on residents’ attitudes. What do Council tax payers think about their local council? It is the first question I ask every Council Leader and Chief Executive I meet – you will be amazed how many who don’t know their score. It is a terrible omission and tells me who their real masters are. We enter into politics to improve people’s lives through civic pride and civic trust. It is time to reinvigorate those great Tory traditions.
Satisfying the public must be our primary concern.
The chances are in a few months the next Conservative Government will have a unique opportunity of holding power nationally, and locally. We should not squander this opportunity, but use it to introduce localism in its most vibrant form.
We must have the confidence to trust our Councils, and more importantly to have faith in the people who elect them.
I have outlined some of our approach to localism – abolishing regional planning and the unaccountable regional quangos, scrapping Labour’s stealth plans for a council tax revaluation. We want to reform local government from within, enabling councils to work closer together cross authority, city, county and regional boundaries, rather than tinkering with structure.
We will look at ways of making the distribution of government grant fairer, and remove forever the temptations for politicians to favour their mates.
We must return powers to local communities in such a way that Central Government will find it impossible to ever take it back.
I hope this new section of ConservativeHome will be used by those who want to help me tear down the prison walls of regulations and return power to local people.
ConservativeHome works best when it is argumentative, challenging and occasionally down right annoying. Within a few weeks I am confident that this Councillors' section will be the first place people will look to see innovation and fresh ideas in the Conservative Party.