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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

Local government minister Nick Raynsford was challenged in the commons to say whether he agreed with the former director of inspection at the Audit Commission - especially in relation to the specific grant element of planned finance reforms.

Tory spokesman Eric Pickles claimed Paul Kirby had said: 'The idea that you give freedom to the people who are already achieving is quite perverse. The real issues are the councils in the middle and the failing ones which actually just need a lot more freedom' (see LGC).

Mr Pickles ask the minister: 'When does he expect that local authorities will have the degree of freedom that they had under the last Conservative government'.

Mr Raynsford retorted that the last Conservative government was responsible for the greatest act of centralising powers, taking powers away from local government, controlling local authority spending, abolishing local authorities and interfering again and again in local democracy.

He added: 'On Mr Kirby, we not only agree with him - although not on that particular point - but have just employed him in central government. He will be taking up a new post helping us to improve delivery'.

Mr Pickles, said the minister, would be in a minority of one if he believed it was perverse to give additional rewards and support to successful authorities to encourage them to do even better.

Hansard 16 Oct 2002: Column 302-304

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