Pickles attacks LGA’s crisis forecast

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
13 December, 2012 | By Kaye Wiggins

A response to the unwarranted attack on LGC’s editorial impartiality will be posted shortly

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has attacked the LGA’s prediction of a crisis in local government services, accusing the group of being “seduced by statistics” and arguing that cuts to councils’ funding have been “modest”.

Mr Pickles (left) told the communities and local government select committee that it was “utterly ludicrous” for the LGA to predict that councils could struggle in future to fund anything other than social care and waste services.

He made his comments after committee chair Clive Betts (Lab) quoted reports in LGC that Department for Communities & Local Government permanent secretary Sir Bob Kerslake had been branded a “doom denier” for rejecting the LGA’s gloomy projections.

“I think it’s utterly ludicrous”, he said. “The LGA have allowed themselves to be seduced by statistics and have got themselves into a Malthusian fantasy” – a reference to the eighteenth-century scholar Thomas Malthus who argued that population growth would outstrip food supply, leading to starvation.

Mr Pickles said: “I do not believe the modest change we’ve seen means the end of civilisation as we know it. Local government will continue and find more efficient ways of doing things. If they find it difficult to do…new people will come.”

Mr Pickles also told the committee that quoting from LGC was “like quoting from a Labour Party press release”. The phrase “doom denier” was in fact coined by the LGA’s Liberal Democrat group.

To read acting editor Dan Drillsma-Milgrom’s response to Eric Pickles’ comments, click here

Asked whether Greg Clark’s decentralisation report, published last week, had implicity criticised his department by saying “it should come to a more settled but ambitious view of the role of local government and communities and neighbourhoods, he said that he had inherited a department that was “the voice of local government within government” and that had changed to being “the voice of the council tax payer, of the citizen inside local government services”.

Council tax

Mr Pickles also used the hearing to insist that freezing council tax levels was “entirely voluntary”. This week, LGC reported that civil servants in Mr Pickles’ department had discussed delaying the local government finance settlement until after Christmas in order to impose a blanket council tax freeze. He added that the settlement would be announced next week.

Sacking chiefs

Mr Pickles was also asked by MPs about his plans to make it easier to dismiss council chief executives – and said the request to do this came from local government itself.

Asked whether he was worried about chiefs being unprotected against politically motivated dismissals, he said: “I just don’t think local government is like that any more.

“You’ve got to rely on the integrity of politicians to make sure the threat of removals is not used lightly”, he said, adding that the removal of a chief usually meant that the council “goes into virtual stasis for six months”.

He praised David White, chief executive of Norfolk CC, who had stood down with a payoff of “just £35,000”. This was a lot of money, he said, but a long way from the settlements of more than £100,000 that some chief executives had received.

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READERS’ COMMENTS (1)
philcoppard | 13-Dec-2012 4:28 pm
Eric Pickles has previous form with these ludicrous statements.
As previously identified, the man is a clown.

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