Conservative Diary

Local government and local elections

18 Sep 2013 06:51:24

Who is winning the Coalition? Us or the Lib Dems?


By Mark Wallace
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Now that both parties are fighting to take credit for the coalition's achievements, rather than seeking to blame each other for its impact, it seems an opportune moment to ask: who is winning the Coalition? Do the Lib Dems or the Conservatives enjoy more success in Government?

Let's tot it up, match by match, across thirteen key policy areas:

Home Office

With PCCs introduced, an immigration cap in place, the concept of regional immigration limits rejected, spending cuts to the police but crime falling regardless and even the now-famous "Go Home" vans, the Home Office is a round victory for the Conservatives. The Lib Dems will be happy about the scrapping of ID cards, but it's worth remembering that this was Tory policy at the election, too.

Blues 2 - 0 Yellows

Local Government

Both parties described themselves as localist in the run-up to 2010, but the plan the Government have implemented is almost entirely Eric Pickles'.  Spending transparency, guaranteed referenda for council tax increases over 5 per cent and relaxed planning regulations all point to a Conservative win.

Blues 2 - 0 Yellows


It's a little hard to say how the different parties have fared in the Justice department. The failure to fulfil the Tory pledge for automatic jail sentences for carrying a knife illegally and the fact the Human Rights Act still has not been replaced by a British Bill of Rights are certainly points against the Conservatives, but they were respectively scored by Ken Clarke and a Commission set up by the Prime Minister, so count as own goals. Since he took over as Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling has been pushing ahead more productively with cuts to legal aid, reform of the courts system and a new, more accountable prison regime. The Lib Dems have had barely a look-in, but the own goals go on their tally - we can expect a better rematch later in the Parliament.

Blues 3 - 2 Yellows

Constitutional Reform

The Lib Dems had a good sequence of play early on - for a while it looked like they might romp home. They certainly secured the referendum on AV which they had demanded, but then the electorate overwhelmingly rejected the plan. Lords reform briefly came onto the agenda, before being torpedoed by Tory backbench opposition. In revenge, Clegg sank the boundary reform the Conservatives desperately need to iron out structural bias in the election system. Both sides lose out - a no-score draw.

Blues 0 - 0 Yellows


It's fair to say Michael Gove has emerged victorious on almost every measure in Education. The academies scheme has been dramatically extended, Free Schools are springing up and new, more rigorous exams are in place. The flagship Lib Dem policy of the Pupil Premium has been implemented, but their promise to aboilish tuition fees has been entirely reversed.

Blues 5 - 1 Yellows


Both parties supported High Speed 2 in 2010, and despite heavy fire from all sides it remains Government policy. The Lib Dem policy of introducing road pricing has been rejected, and replaced by reductions and freezes in fuel prices, driven by Rob Halfon. Clegg and Cameron both promised that Heathrow would not be expanded, and they've got their way - with Lib Dem support for the policy helping to overwhelm any Tory suggestions it be revoked.

Blues 2 - 1 Yellows 


The decision to hold a Strategic Defence Review rather partially removed this department from the realm of pure party politics early on in the parliament. However, the Lib Dems regularly boast that they have managed to delay any decision to replace Trident until at least 2015, while the Conservatives have successfully slimmed down the MoD's size and balanced its budget for the first time in years. A score draw.

Blues 1 - 1 Yellows


Energy and Environment

Chris Huhne, and later Ed Davey, have dominated these policy fields from DECC until Owen Paterson gave DEFRA more Tory bite in the last year. The Green Deal is in place (and splashing money everywhere), wind farms are still going ahead despite the Tories wishing to implement a moratorium and the Green Investment Bank has got the go-ahead. Shale gas has now been given the green light, but only after lengthy delays thanks to Lib Dem opposition. 

Blues 1 - Yellows 5

Tax and Spend

Both parties agreed on the need for austerity after the Brown years, but we should note that the Lib Dem manifesto proposed £15 billion of spending cuts, delayed until 2011-12. Austerity has been larger than that, and began immediately. While Clegg and Alexander's presence in the Quad has certainly reduced the fiscal tightening somewhat, Government policy looks closer to Osborne's position than theirs.

On tax, it's a different story. The 50p rate is gone, but it is now 45p rather than the 40p many Tories would have preferred. The income tax threshold is rising to £10,000, following a Lib Dem manifesto pledge - though it's not a policy many Conservatives are uncomfortable about. It's fair to say Osborne's enthusiasm for tax cuts (for example on Inheritance Tax) has been sizeably hindered by his coalition partners.

Goals for each side, but level pegging so far.

Blues 2 - Yellows 2

Welfare Reform

Like Eric Pickles, Iain Duncan Smith went into the 2010 election with a coherent plan and a deep personal dedication to his brief. As a result, he's got his way on the bulk of his proposals. The two parties have collaborated to protect the Universal Credit scheme from Treasury attempts to axe it or scale it back. It says a lot that the Lib Dems' main impact on the DWP has been to veto IDS' offers to make even more savings from his budget.

Blues 2 - Yellows 1

Business and Banks

Vince Cable has long touted his Department as the heartland of Lib Dem opposition to Conservative leadership of the coalition. He's certainly managed to get the Government to adopt his industrial strategy, and blocked the Beecroft reforms to workplace regulation. But he has also had to accept the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies and the Conservative-driven cuts to red tape. The decider is the Government's decision to accept the Lib Dem policy to break up the banks.

Blues 2 - Yellows 3


To say the Health and Social Care Act proved controversial is an understatement. Various of the policies within it are drawn from the Conservative 2010 manifesto, although Lib Dem opposition forced the Government into a "listening period" and resulted in several changes to the legislation. 

Blues 2 - Yellows 1


This always seemed likely to be the sticking point of the Coalition. Clegg has prevented Cameron from offering an earlier referendum, and the Conservatives have been forced to use a Private Member's Bill to pursue their policy post-2015. However, the Lib Dems so far have been too afraid of public opinion to vote against the Wharton Bill, resorting to wrecking attempts in the Committees. The In/Out referendum is on the way, but Yellow blocking tactics have left the Blues open to attack by UKIP.

Blues 1 - Yellows 2

Scores so far

Here are the overall scores from the first half of the Parliamentary season. Of 13 matches, there have been 7 Blue victories, 3 Yellow wins and 3 draws. 25 goals for the Conservatives and 19 for the Liberal Democrats leaves the goal difference at +6 for the Blue team.

The contest is only going to become more hotly contested - as can be seen by Nick Clegg's attempt to take the credit for Rob Halfon's ideas today - so we will continue to watch every match and report back.

29 Jun 2013 20:47:34

UKIP's share of the vote soared in May. The Conservatives' fell. Labour's fell more. What does that tell us?

Screen shot 2013-06-29 at 19.53.25
By Paul Goodman
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Lord Ashcroft's polling tells us that a larger percentage of people supporting UKIP voted Conservative at the last election than voted Labour.  (Indeed, we also know that a larger percentage of people supporting UKIP voted Tory than voted UKIP.)

And Survation's work tells us that until or unless UKIP's vote rises above 16 per cent, the party draws more from Conservative supporters than Labour ones.  All in all, UKIP is more of a problem for David Cameron than Ed Miliband.

So how should we read the graph above, compiled by CCHQ after digging into May's local election results?  A cursory glimpse might suggest that it is challenging the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from Lord Ashcroft's and Survation's work (and that of others).

After all, it shows the share of the vote won by "Others" - i.e: UKIP, mostly - rising by almost 20 per cent in a year, but that of the Conservatives' falling less than Labour.  So UKIP is actually drawing more support nationally from Labour than the Conservatives, right?

Wrong.  To draw such a conclusion would be to compare apples and pears.  Local election results simply tell one what happened in local elections - which, remember, are never held across the nation as a whole.  Local results aren't comparable to national results (or, indeed, national polls).

None the less, even though the graph isn't telling us anything much about what will happen at the next election, I think it is telling us something.  Local elections are usually about protesting against the Government of the day.

And what the graph is telling us is not only that Labour, the official opposition, isn't scooping up that protest, but that its very nature is changing. The vote share of the two parties of government fell by roughly six per cent - but Labour's didn't rise by six per cent.

Instead, it actually fell by ten per cent or so.  In short, CCHQ's research buttresses the view that local election protest is now aimed not so much against the Government of the day as the political class as a whole.

I asked CCHQ if by producing the graph above it was seeking to mislead those who read it into confusing apples and pears - in other words, into believing that UKIP is primarily a threat to Miliband rather than Cameron.

CCHQ deny this - saying that the point of disseminating the graph is to show that UKIP hits Labour as well as the Conservatives; that party members don't know this - and that they need to know.

I think that they know this perfectly well, and that this site's readers certainly do.  But I may be wrong.  Here, at any rate, are the figures and the graph.  I've said what I make of them.  You must make of them what you will.

4 May 2013 07:46:54

How the Conservatives and UKIP can kiss and make up

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-05-04 at 06.41.39The next general election will not be concentrated in the counties, but it will decide the government.  For this reason, voters will return to the two major parties, the Conservatives and Labour, one of which must lead in forming an administration, if not win outright.  Turnout will rise, UKIP's share of the vote will fall, and the best course that David Cameron can take, in the meanwhile, is to hold his nerve, build on his recent conference speeches, and promote a strong, mainstream, sensible programme, for government and for the future.  In short, no single, silver bullet will slay the Farage werewolf.

Such a programme would be a conservatism for Bolton West, as I've put it: reducing net immigration, tackling welfare dependency, holding fuel and electricity bills down, showing leadership at home by bringing the deficit down further, boosting job security and helping to keep mortgage rates low.  All this is the conventional wisdom, and it's true as far as it goes.  I started to look at UKIP and what drives its vote relatively early, and noted that EU policy is not the main factor: immigration and crime are bigger factors.  Above all, UKIP's support is driven not so much by ideas as by anger - by the urge to put two fingers up to the entire political class.

Continue reading "How the Conservatives and UKIP can kiss and make up" »

3 May 2013 18:41:15

If Harry Phibbs's assessment is shared by Tory MPs, Cameron is safer than he was yesterday morning

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 18.06.27
By Paul Goodman

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We're now in a position to compare the results against our Local Government Correspondent's tests for all four main parties.


"Very good result: Retaining even one of the four counties they gained last time - Staffordshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Good result: Losing those four, but nothing else.

Bad result: Losing control of Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Suffolk, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire."

Because of some losses of control in that last column, I would mark the Conservative result down to "good", on Harry's scorecard.


"Very good result: Gaining overall control in Cumbria and Warwickshire. Or becoming the largest party in Northamptonshire.  Winning enough seats in Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire to deny the Conservatives overall control.

Good result: Gaining Staffordshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.  Emerging as the largest party in Cumbria and Warwickshire.  Winning the contests for directly elected Mayor in Doncaster and North Tyneside.

Bad result: Not winning any of the above."

Labour gained enough seats to help deny the Conservatives control in Gloucestershire or Oxfordshire.  But by Harry's measure, this is a poor set of results for them.

Liberal Democrats

"Very good result: Winning a single one of the 37 councils and mayoralties up for election: their best bet is Cornwall.

Good result: Holding their own in terms of numbers of councillors after heavy losses last year and the year before.

Bad result: The Rallings and Thrasher projections from council by-elections imply a loss of 130 seats. If they do much worse - say lose half their seats and/or come in behind UKIP then that really will be a pretty dismal night for them."

The LibDems didn't gain Cornwall.  But they didn't lost over 130 seats, either.  Nor did they come in behind UKIP.  You would have to conclude this was a fair-to-middling result for them using Harry's criteria.


"Very good result: A very good result would be gains of over 200. If we see this, combined with huge losses for the Lib Dems, we could see more UKIP councillors elected than Lib Dems. If that happened then the cliches would be fair. We will be in a four party system.

Good result: Gains of over 100 would mean we could dust down cliches about "breaking the mould". Certainly gains on that scale could be regarded by the Party as a good result.

Bad result: Given the high expectations I think that fewer than, say, 50 gains would be a disappointing result for them."

OK, so let's dust down cliches about breaking the mould.

If Conservative MPs had roughly the same expectations as Harry, then David Cameron's position this evening is a bit safer than it was yesterday morning - not, in my view, that he was in serious danger of a backbench putsch even then.

Lord Ashcroft wrote earlier this afternoon: "Well, that could have been worse. A lot better too, certainly, but let’s keep things in perspective." I hope Tory backbenchers take his advice, but UKIP's big gains may panic some of them - and are the wild card.

Here again are Harry's Conservative, Labour, LibDem and UKIP original pieces.


3 May 2013 07:29:06

Cameron's fightback begins before the election counts end. But will his Queen's Speech measures turn the tide?

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 07.25.05
By Paul Goodman

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Downing Street is moving fast to pre-butt - as it were - today's seat loss results from yesterday's elections.  It looks as I write as though UKIP, as expected, has done very well indeed.  Remember: Harry Phibbs's success test for them is gains of over 100.

  • OUT from the Queen's Speech go such Big State or Nanny State measures as a minimum alchohol price and plain cigarette packaging and access (though the former at least was actually junked earlier this year after a Cabinet revolt).
  • IN come tough, no-nonense measures such as a crackdown on immigrants' access to the NHS and benefits (though it remains to be seen how these plans will work in practice, especially when faced with the dual challenge to all tough-minded proposals - judicial review and human rights laws).

Today's Daily Telegraph's Editorial attributes this new focus to Lynton Crosby, the Prime Minister's election strategist. "Call it the Crosby Effect," the paper declares. "In recent days, the Conservative Party has been starting to sound – well, almost conservative."

It's certainly the case that Tory MPs have been happier since Miliband's implosion over welfare reform, the unifying effect on the Conservative Party of the Thatcher funeral, and Labour's failure to build a commanding lead in the polls.  But Crosby's presence has clearly helped.

Whether that sunniness holds will depend a great deal not only on how bad today's results are for the Conservatives, but how good they are for Labour.  I've peered briefly at the latter's progress so far in today's LeftWatch.

2 May 2013 07:18:55

Today's local elections. How to judge who polls well and who polls badly

By Paul Goodman
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On this election day, here's an encapsulation of Harry Phibbs's guide to how measure success or failure for the main parties.


Very good result: Retaining even one of the four counties they gained last time - Staffordshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Good result: Losing those four, but nothing else.

Bad result: Losing control of Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Suffolk, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire.

Continue reading "Today's local elections. How to judge who polls well and who polls badly" »

29 Apr 2013 07:13:54

Five snapshots of Cameron on tour

Cameron bw looking right
By Paul Goodman

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The Prime Minister glances up from his train seat and gives me a glare of welcome.  I have joined his entourage to follow him for the day on the campaign trail, and we are bound for Preston.  His red box is shoved to one side of the train table. He clearly doesn't mind facing backwards as he travels. Paperwork is strewn in front of him.  I am dismissed for a while to allow him to catch up with it - mug up his brief on the visit, I suspect - and then summoned for a chat.  He begins by objecting to a story published about Downing Street recently.  A reason for that opening glower has just become clear.

I mention the incident only because it offers the perfect introduction to my five snapshots of Cameron on tour:

  • Getting out of London is a means of escape.  Imagine being Prime Minister.  Almost everyone wants something from you.  You can trust almost no-one.  The Leader of the Opposition wants your job, and so do most of your colleagues.  Your party will despatch you if you lose without a second thought. You are blamed for everything that goes wrong - more often than not - and praised for nothing that goes right.  You discover very swiftly to your frustration that your powers in office are more limited than you had ever imagined.  These problems are par for the course in every generation, but this Twitter Age brings new ones.  For the lobby and blogosphere, armed with the fearsome apparatus of modern technology, is on your case.  Make a slip and you will be remorselessly punished.  This feral beast (copyright, T.Blair) treats you with a presumption of guilt, and nothing that you say or do is off-limits.  This bubble life can drive Prime Ministers mad, and has indeed done so in one or two recent cases.  Cameron is as tough as old wellingtons, but his soul must occasionally cry: O for the wings of a dove.  So how can he fly away, and find rest?  Why, by escaping from the Village - and going on tour.
  • Cameron is ageing well...but he is ageing.  What is happening to that energetic young man who, mimicking Blair's youthful appeal, used to cycle to work each day?  The Prime Minister is keeping his figure - all I see him eat is a banana - but the years are passing.  He is losing some hair at the front.  Rather than brush it down, he is sweeping it back in a wave, away from that high forehead.  There are patches of grey in it, low down on the back of his head, when it is seen from behind.  Cameron is rather fine-looking in a posh sort of way - clap a powdered wig on his head, and he could be an extra in Pride and Prejudice - but his face, seen from some angles, is peculiarly pudding-like.  His expressions are an interesting study: when baffled by something, his face takes on a look of bovine dull-wittedness that, for whatever reason, I associate with people of exceptionally high intelligence.  (He got a first.)  He is far less adept at concealing his feelings than many senior politicians.  When annoyed by something, he frowns down his nose at you.  He flushes easily.  When seeking to soothe or placate or calm - his default setting - both hands are pushed out, palms downwards, as if pushing you away.
  • He enjoys the stump.  Cameron, his entourage and I get off the train, and I am dashed about in a car that follows his to Barnoldswick, where we visit Hope - Hope Technology, which manufactures cycle parts.  Complete in trademark blue suit and light blue tie, the Prime Minister crashes through the vast factory space, shaking hands, peering and frowning at jockey wheels and chain guides.  The Prime Minister is very good at these visits.  He has swotted up on the facts, asks lots of questions, and seems - no, is - pleased to see everyone, which isn't surprising, because everyone seems pleased to see him.  Seriously.  I don't catch so much as a resentful or contemptous half-glance.  There is an obvious reason for this.  Cameron is, after all, helping to promote what they do.  And there is, I think, another one - namely, that these are skilled, productive, hard-toiling Englishmen and women who have the natural cheerfulness of people doing an honest day's work.  Whether this is true of everyone who lives in the Westminster Village is a matter for debate.  The Prime Minister travels with a small entourage - at least, by the standard of some of his equivalents abroad.  At one point, Liz Sugg, his tour organiser and a long-standing aide, dashes maniacally from the room, mobile clamped to her hair.  Clare Foges, Cameron's speechwriter, is also on the trip.
  • Cameron is excellent at presenting.  Indeed, this is probably what he does best.  The TV cameras have come to the factory and Arif Ansari, the BBC's north-west political correspondent, has questions for Cameron.  The Prime Minister wants to stick to his carefully-scripted sound bite about the coming elections being a red/blue choice - and that only by voting Conservative can you keep your council tax down.  Ansari plugs away about criticisms that Geoff Driver, the Tory county council leader, has made of Michael Gove over academies: he rejects the Education Secretary's claims that some primaries are sub-standard.  Cameron doesn't so much as blink as he explains that Gove and Driver want the same thing, namely better schools for our children, so they are completely in agreement.  This is obvious nonsense - well, it isn't nonsense, but you know what I mean - and though Ansari perseveres he doesn't get very far.  It is all a bit 1997, in our exciting new age of authenticity, but the Prime Minister does it very well.  And then we are out and away and off to a pub amidst impossibly bleak and beautiful moorland, where Cameron is due to speak to a mass of party members from the area.
  • The Party members I see respect him, admire him, and like him.  But there is no sense that they think he's One of Us.  Cameron is pawed, tousled, back-slapped, snapped and videoed as he works his way through the room.  The crowd is younger than one might have expected for a weekday.  Lots of working age people as well as many elderly ones.  There is a sprinkling of Asian faces.  His pitch is fairly standard - deficit down by a third; benefits cap; net immigration down by a third, and so on.  It goes down perfectly well, but there's an interesting sub-text: his points don't get the room breaking into applause.  They respect the Prime Minister's office, clearly admire him, even like him - and seem to think that he's doing his best.  But I get no sense, as I did when I used to watch Margaret Thatcher talking to party members, that they feel he's One of Us.  And, always, he is held back by a problem she never had - that he's yet to win, if he ever does, an election on his own.  One of the questions is about Europe, the policy issue.  Another is about Nigel Farage, the party leader: must Cameron be so adversarial towards him?  The Prime Minister smoothes over that one as quickly as he can.

Then he is outside in the sunlight as the members applaud, turn to each other, brandish mobile phones.  For a moment, I am seized by a sudden sympathy for him.  It is utterly disproportionate.  After all, no-one asked him to do the job.  He is never going to go hungry after he leaves it.  Many of his problems are his own fault.  But the bottom line is: what he does is public service.  What I and much of the Village do is not.  I have been a politician, am now a journalist - and know which is harder.  He spots me.  "Goodbye, Paul," he says. "Thank you for coming."  I hold out my right hand.  Out comes his left one.  Its palm encloses my hand, shakes it, and pushes it slightly downwards.

And then he's gone.

20 Apr 2013 08:14:58

Pickles dismantles Osborne's new conservatory

By Paul Goodman
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Mike Jones, the Conservative leader of Cheshire West and Cheshire Council and a senior figure in the Local Government Association, has reason to raise a sceptical eyebrow at how the details of the Government's compromise scheme over home extensions will work.  But there's no doubt that Eric Pickles, who has cobbled it all together, has calmed some quivering nerves.  Earlier this week, a Tory backbench revolt over CLG's original proposal cut the Government's majority to 27.  Zac Goldsmith, one of the rebellion's ringleaders, tells today's Daily Telegraph that the Communities Secretary's approach is sensible: "Crucially it protects people's right to object, which has always been a red line for me. I'm pleased the Government has listened to concerns."

Pickles isn't being blamed for the original snarl-up.  Indeed, it was his appeal to backbenchers, made from the despatch box itself, that soothed the revolt.  The Communities Secretary isn't always an emollient figure, but the former Bradford Council leader is a veteran fixer, and friends tell me that he relished the chance to go to the chamber and quell an upset.  He was in a marvellous position to do so because Conservative MPs, rightly or wrongly, don't blame him for the original plans: they point the finger at George Osborne.  I wouldn't claim for a moment that Pickles encouraged them to do so, but his CLG team is very cool about some of the Treasury's more fervent schemes for growth.

Nick Boles is widely seen as an exception - as a committed ally of the Treasury - but this is to simplify the position.  The Planning Minister has indeed been sent into the valley of death by the Chancellor (as I've put it previously), but he's well aware that this mission puts his political life in danger, and though he believes in the cause - after all, he's backed housing growth since his Policy Exchange days - he isn't at all gung-ho about it.  Indeed, he didn't seek to go above Pickles's head and appeal to Osborne over the climbdown, and played his part in trying to head off the backbench uprising.  But since he's seen as the Treasury's man, he was far less well placed to do so than wily old Pickles.

This week's news from Fitch is a reminder of how desparate Osborne is for growth, and how apprehensive Ministers can be when the quest for it raises thorny questions about principle and practice.  Let me raise just one: if localism means anything, is it right not to allow them local discretion over planning practice on, say, ground floor home extensions?  Different people will answer in different ways, but the question is legitimate.  My own view is that Osborne is more sinned against than sinning when it comes to clashes with other Ministers over growth - that he's on the right side of the argument over housing, airports, infrastructure and green taxes (though he must take a big share of the blame for ensnaring the party in green excesses in opposition).

Which isn't to say that the Treasury's original plans were correct in this particular case.  But the resistance of backbenchers to development on their patches, the ambiguity of the Liberal Democrats (some of whom are pushing More Garden Cities Now), the lateness of part of the Treasury push and the long timetable for building houses conspire against the Chancellor getting big housing growth in the little-more-than-two-year-period between now and the general election.  If the present moment was the start of a new Parliament, there's little doubt what Osborne could and perhaps would do: cut the rise of spending further in order to cut taxes further.  But we aren't there, and it's hard to see where a big upturn is going to come from.

28 Mar 2013 07:45:49

"The average council tax bill has gone down in real terms by 9.7 per cent"

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 07.27.20

                                                                     Graphic from the Daily Mail

By Paul Goodman
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From one point of view, it is not localist to bar councils from raising council tax by more than 2% if they wish, and Eric Pickles's claims to localism are therefore a pile of hokum.  From another, empowering local residents to approve or veto such rises is a localist move, and the Communities Secretary is right to have put it in place.  Then again, it can be argued that such polls are all very well, but it isn't localist to have them enforced on local authorities from Westminster and Whitehall.

The theory is contested but the results are clear.  The Daily Mail this morning reports that one in three councils are ignoring Pickles's plea to freeze bills.  That's another way of saying that two out of three are not doing so, and that the Communities Secretary's mission is getting his own way more often than not.  The Mail's own graphic shows how Band D rises have tailed off following the formation of the Coalition in 2010, and Pickles's consequent appointment to the Communities Department.

Continue reading ""The average council tax bill has gone down in real terms by 9.7 per cent"" »

25 Mar 2013 00:01:00

Cameron promises three-fold crackdown on immigration

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 19.31.27

Yesterday morning I blogged some general thoughts on Cameron's immigration speech that he'll give later today. We now have some more detail on the PM's prepared remarks.

His speech will have three themes overall: (i) Cutting immigrants' access to benefits; (ii) ending 'something for nothing' benefits'; and (iii) cracking down on illegal immigration.

Continue reading "Cameron promises three-fold crackdown on immigration" »