If we want to get any commitments from political parties we need to get to them while they are worried about winning votes
It has been speculated that Eric Pickles could be off to become Conservative party chairman. I’m sure he is “bluff” and a Nigel Farage-ish bloke who will rally his troops to respond to the Ukip threat. However, his legacy for us is nothing short of disaster.
He has continually done our reputation down and encouraged the Treasury to hit us hardest with cuts. More seriously, he has given no leadership to the sector other than to tell us how to empty the bins. If he does go, it will be too late. He has damaged us.
Meanwhile, the LGA and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy have launched a commission on local government finance. It will explore the government’s approach and make recommendations. Again, it is too late. Its recommendations will be made to an incoming government in 2015. If we want to get any commitments from political parties we need to get to them while they are worried about winning votes, not after they have been cast.
We don’t need another wrongly timed independent review. We need to be calling on all the political parties to promise a future government will review our finances and do something in the first part of the next parliament. Negotiate quickly and get written manifesto promises against which we can hold a future government to account.
I feel a bit like the serial complainer Kirklees Metropolitan Council has just banned. He complained thousands of times about the council and I’m always moaning about the government and our representative bodies. I once had a vociferous resident. Staff always moaned about him. I had a look at the issues he was raising and he was right. Rather than ban him, I asked him to work with us to make our services more responsive and of better quality. It was never an easy relationship, but it worked. He helped us improve, he understood more of the realities of delivering public services, and the staff became fond of him and realised he cared about the community and the council.
Not to draw any parallels with yours truly, but could somebody at the top at least explain why we are moving at a snail’s pace and not getting stuck into the mucky national politics now? Give us a clear strategy and we could be doing our bit too, explaining to our constituency candidates what vibrant local government needs.