Lord Porter has criticised Sajid Javid for his “ill-judged” attack on councils’ competence and accountability in his closing Local Government Association conference speech.
The communities secretary enraged delegates on Tuesday by warning that the whole sector faced a “looming crisis of trust” following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, but made no reference to any shortcomings by central government.
In his closing address to the conference yesterday, the association’s Conservative chair also confirmed LGC’s revelation of how he had a furious telephone row with the minister immediately after the speech.
Lord Porter said: “There was a lot of anger following Sajid’s speech - that’s no understatement.
“His comments were ill-judged in parts of the speech and his good bits were overshadowed.
“I did phone him up as he was leaving. It was the worst conversation I’ve ever had with a secretary of state.”
However, Lord Porter added: “He’s still our secretary of state. He’s still the guy we have to work with. It’s no good just trading blows with him and he has fought for councils before.”
The LGA chair insisted Mr Javid’s “heart is in the right place”.
Earlier in the day, David Simmonds, the association’s new Conservative group leader, also drew a contrasting message to that of the communities secretary, during a session covering responses to terrorist attacks in Islington, Manchester, and Southwark. Many delegates told LGC they were disgusted Mr Javid had neglected to mention councils’ cooperation in these instances and had tarred all with the shortcomings in Kensington & Chelsea RBC’s response to Grenfell.
“The mood of the conference has been challenged by criticism,” Cllr Simmonds said. “It’s been fantastic to see examples of community leadership bringing people together.”
LGC has also been told that in one private session of the conference, Department for Communities & Local Government permanent secretary Melanie Dawes was attacked by a senior chief executive for the department sanctioning Mr Javid’s speech. It is usual procedure for civil servants to amend and advise on ministerial speeches.
In a separate line in Lord Porter’s speech, he also appeared to indicate that he expected the new shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne, who had pledged to work with him in support of the sector, would take on the role in an incoming Labour government.
”It’s always nice to know that the next person in is going to look after you,” Lord Porter said.