Leicestershire CC leader David Parsons (Con) has launched his bid for the chairmanship of the Local Government Association with a populist rallying cry against political correctness and high salaries for officers.
And alongside a pledge to return to “middle England common sense in town halls”, Cllr Parsons promised to cancel the association’s appointment of a new chief executive and pursue a policy of “rapprochement” with the coalition government.
Cllr Parsons is challenging for the job of LGA chair now that Dame Margaret Eaton has served the maximum three years. The new chair will take office at the LGA’s conference next month.
The post will by convention go to a Conservative as they are the largest party. Kensington & Chelsea RBC leader Sir Merrick Cockell is expected to launch a rival campaign shortly.
Cllr Parsons said he was concerned “about excessive pay, non-jobs [and] ludicrous political correctness”, and would “urge councils to ban politically correct job titles and demonstrate why these people are on the payroll”
Illustrating this point, he remarked: “Give me six bin men, not a director of place shaping on £140k.”
Payments to departing senior officers should be capped “to end the ‘merry go round’ of chief execs pocketing a huge sum then reappearing somewhere else”.
He said the national leadership of local government should be “at one with the government in its absolute focus on value for money. We should not tolerate poor service or high charges.”
In a manifesto to be published this week, Cllr Parsons promised to make a “decisive break with the past” by “forging a more effective partnership with our Conservative-led government”. This would include establishing “a strategy of rapprochement and partnership with the coalition government”. Another priority would be to stop the recruitment process for a chief executive and appoint a three-month interim.
“Is there a Richard Branson or Mary Portas figure out there who can help transform local government? That’s the kind of person I want to attract,” he added.
Cllr Parsons called for a “Locality LGA, not London LGA”, which would involve the creation of LGA support of virtual groupings of neighbouring authorities.
The chairmanship of the LGA Conservative group is expected to be contested by Robert Light, former leader of Kirklees Council, on Cllr Parson’s ticket and Gary Porter, leader of South Holland DC and chair of the LGA environment and housing board.
Surrey CC leader Andrew Povey has declared as a candidate for the deputy leader post.