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Is there a split between Eric Pickles and senior Tories on the LGA?

The Local Government Chronicle report (£)  that at an Executive meeting of the Local Government Association there was strong criticism of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Criticism from Labour councillors (Salford leader Cllr Merry and Wakefield leader Cllr Box) can be discounted. But the report also says that the Lib Dems were outspoken. Cllr Richard Kemp was backed up in his complaints by Portsmouth leader Cllr Vernon-Jackson and Hertfordshire opposition Lib Dem leader Cllr Chris White. Confusingly Cllr Kemp both denounced Eric Pickles and called for the DCLG to be abolished. But you would have thought that Cllr Kemp would have therefore welcomed the halving in the number of DCLG staff as a step in the right direction?

What of the Conservative response? The report says rather implies that Conservative reps who didn't respond were endorsing the criticisms. I think this could well be a misinterpretation. I have been at London Councils meetings where Eric Pickles has been criticised and I have remained silence purely out of desperation not to prolong the tedious proceedings.

However the report does add:

Dame Margaret Eaton (Con) said she was “saddened” by some ministerial behaviour.

However, she said approaching the prime minister and deputy prime minister did not represent the best way to resolve matters.

She added: “I think all of us would say that the relationship with [the departments of] health and education, while we have our disagreements, is on a much more civilised basis than [that with

Perhaps Eric and Grant should throw a few more bouquets. In fairness I think they are constructive in praising examples of good practice in Town Halls - although this will be less interesting the the media than criticism.

But on the big question of spending cuts the message that spending cuts can be made without cutting front line services can only be made forcefully with specific examples. Inevitably the councils named and shamed forwasting money are going to hate it. They respond that the examples mentioned would not be enough to cover the cuts required. This then prompts more examples of wasteful spending to be raised - which they hate even more.

There is also some confusion that localism means Eric Pickles should not be allowed to express a view on issues such as fortnightly bin collections. Encouragement and opinion is different to compulsion.

On another level the whole premise that there should be a single view of the "sector" on the merits of Eric Pickles or any other subject a flawed. We need to get away from the  tyranny of Group Think. Which does rather beg the question of what the LGA is for.


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