More like the Marx Brothers than Laurel & Hardy

Richard Kemp – a LibDem councillor at the Local Government Assoc, but I try not to hold that against him – has described Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps as Laurel and Hardy and Bob Neil as Minime.  Not to be outdone, I’ve been trying to think of a famous foursome in order to include Gregg Clark, the Decentralisation Minister, as he is helping, if only by default, to kick the stuffing out of local government.

Gregg Clark is not as guilty as the others of banging the Localism drum with one hand, whilst waving the latest ministerial directive to local government with the other, but if you lay down with dogs you are bound to catch fleas.

I suppose if you leave out Gregg for the time being the other three could be collectively grouped as the 3 Stooges, which wouldn’t be a bad description, given their bumbling, slapstick approach to the job. 

However, I also think the Marx Brothers could be quite an accurate description for this government quartet.  They, the Brothers, also seemed particularly good at leaving a trail of chaos in their wake and they had a smart mouth called Groucho, who puts down anybody who challenges his view of the world, with a sarcastic and witty remark (Pickles can manage the sarcasm, but humour seems beyond him). 

I think Gregg Clark would probably be the one who doesn’t speak, in the quartet, because although he does have quite a lot to say, unlike the others, what he says tends to be focussed on his role as a minister and not on taking a swipe at local government whenever the opportunity presents itself.

LibDems Abusers Charter

The LibDems seem to be the Swap Party, given their swap from being Liberals to LibDems whenever that was; their swap from being an opposition party into being a party in government and now they appear keen to champion the swapping of one set of what they see as abusers for another.  Once a liberal lefty, touchy feely type, always a liberal lefty, etc, etc.

This time they want to rid the world of cowboy wheel clampers, who abuse ‘innocent’ motorists by clamping them when they park of private land.  Of course, if these people didn’t park on the private land in the first place, because they are either too lazy, or too tight to use a fee paying car park, they wouldn’t get clamped.  So now, instead of the clampers being the abusers, it will be these drivers abusing owners of private land.

The LibDems have also decided that the use of Criminal Record checks, for those with access to children and vulnerable adults, will no longer be needed for those with only occasional access.  CRB checks are a costly overhead for those organisations needing to put people through the process, but a very worthwhile one when you think of the irreparable damage done to a child that has been sexually abused.  Now some of those people, who were apparently being abused by this requirement, will be free once again to become potential abusers.

CCTV and official snooping in general, is also to be curbed.  This will allow those who get caught doing things they shouldn’t, but are having their civil liberties abused when spotted doing wrong, will be able to rob, assault or defraud the taxpayers to their hearts content, safe in the knowledge that, even if taken to task, there will be no CCTV or video evidence to back up the attempted prosecution, because that would have been an abuse of their civil liberties.

If I were the suspicious type, which of course I am, I could find myself wondering what all those LibDems who have been bending Cleegie’s ear about this issue, have got to hide?     

Pickles’ hypocricy continues

Local government continues to be criticised from various quarters, whilst at the same time battling the worst grant settlement in recent history.  Media criticism is a given these days – there’s no news in good news when it comes to the press.  The other, and more damaging criticism, comes from a man who is now clearly demonstrating a pathological hatred of the institution that gave him his start in politics, but appears to have cause him some form of psychological damage in the process, Eric Pickles.

Although given the job of minister for local government and therefore supposedly an advocate for it within central government, this man appears to be on a one-man crusade, but enthusiastically aided and abetted by Shapps, Clark and Neill at various stages, to undermine his area of responsibility to the point of extinction.

The hypocritical utterances of Pickles since taking office just keep flowing, with his latest referring to senior officers’ salaries.  In keeping with his two-faced approach to the Localism agenda, he has now decreed that all councils will publish details of staff earning over £58,000 a year.  Not a big deal in itself, why shouldn’t the local taxpayer know what those running their local councils are earning.  However, at the same time, this ignores completely the government’s cave-in on a similar proposal for civil servants earning ‘fat cat salaries’ – his words not mine – and the subsequent pathetic requirements for them to publicise details of all those earning more than £150,000 a year.  One rule for them and another for the rest of the pond life, as the lower ranks were sometimes called when I was in the military.

The attack from the media comes in the form of an investigation by the BBC Breakfast News show.  It must have been extremely challenging making all those telephone calls to councils – worthy of a bonus, a party paid for from expenses and at least two self-congratulatory award ceremonies.

Apparently, councils are preying on the vulnerable by increasing the charges made for services such as meals on wheels, burials and cremations.  No councillor gets elected on the promise of cutting services, or of screwing the taxpayer for as much money as possible and given the choice, most of us would prefer to reduce the cost of any service the public values.  However, when confronted with a mad fat man in a hurry, whose only priority is to punish local government and grab media headlines whilst doing so, council’s are left with little choice.

Those with access to any of the local government range of publications and in particular the Local Government Chronicle (LCG), would have read numerous articles, written by all manner of so-called experts and informed commentators, some of them from within the government, encouraging councils to be more innovative in the way they raise revenue, with trading and charges being at the top of the list of must do’s.  Trading takes time and money to set up, but increasing charges for services doesn’t.  Desperate people do desperate things and so do desperate councils.

Wind energy companies have blood on their hands

A colleague from another council, has just sent me a link to a recent newspaper story that, even if only partially true,  is so horrifying that the government should shut down the wind energy industry in this country immediately.  Poisoning China.

So, not only are the wind energy companies robbing the British people blind, with the enthusiastic blessing of both this and the previous government, they appear to also be robbing Chinese people of their futures, all in the name of protecting the environment.