Surgeon, Heal Thyself
Eric Pickles, with his tradesmark panache and charm, has upset huge swathes of the councillors and council staff across the country with his festive “Fifty Ways To Save” document which proposes how councils could stop spending so much money. What we will now see are councils of every stripe and colour pulling apart Mr Pickle’s list and a storm in a teacup shouting match between central government and local government. It will go something like this:-
Central Government: You aren’t cutting enough or doing as you’re told!
Local Government: You people up there don’t understand anything about local government.
Central Government: We understand just fine. You wont do as your told!
Local Government: Whatever happened to localism?
Central Government: That was just a catchy phrase. We didn’t really know what it meant. This has nothing to do with that.
Local Government: That’s okay, we didn’t really know what it meant either. Yes it does!
Central Government: If you won’t take the very generous offer to freeze council tax then we’ll make you do it another way. Savings are necessary.
Local Government: Why don’t you take your bossy attitude and stick it somewhere? You just want to pass all the blame for cuts on to us!
Central Government: Well obviously! D’oh! But we can make you do what we want. You know that right? This is a time of austerity.
Local Government: There are more of us. Don’t start something you can’t finish. We’ve been delivering all the austerity!
Central Government: My Dad is bigger than your dad. You need to remember the taxpayers who fund all this!
Local Government: My Dad is bigger than your dad. You need to remember the constituents who need our services!
It’s all pretty unnecessary, really. There are some great suggestions in Eric’s document. There are some less great ones too, but they are just suggestions. There’s really no need to get all hot under the collar about it. Councils can implement the ones they like safe in the knowledge that the Department For Communities and Local Government have given them their backing to do so. They can ignore the ones that, in their council, are just plain stupid (or already happening) safe in the knowledge that they know their region better than Eric Pickles and his Merry Men (and Women) do.
But make no mistake – Eric hasn’t accidentally upset councillors. He’s done it because he knows that large swathes of the public like to blame their local council for, well, just about everything. So you can safely deliver lofty proclamations at councillors and nobody gives a damn. In fact, generally, they cheer. Deliver the same message to any other group and there’d be mayhem, but you can kick councillors all you like and its fine. Which is okay. It comes with the territory.
What I would really like to see though is for local councils to get together and write a Fifty Ways For Government To Save Money document in response. I don’t mean this in a mean way. We should all be trying to save money independently. And frankly – central government is a great, bloated beast. Sure, let’s cut councillor access to public sector pensions (I’ve never claimed one) but why not tell MPs to go to the private sector too? Those parliamentary gold plated pensions could do with a look, couldn’t they? In fact almost every single proposal in Eric’s “5o Ways” document has an equal or greater partner in central government’s own spending.
“Clamp Down On Corporate Charge Cards” = “Clamp Down On Expenses Claims For Houses Your Cousin Rents From You.”
“Claw Back Money From Benefits Cheats” = “Claw Back Money From Tax Cheats.”
“Stop The Scope Of Procurement Fraud” = “Stop Socialising The Losses Of Huge Banks.”
“Utilise Reserves Creatively” = “If You Stopped Overspending For Once You’d Have Some Reserves Of Your Own.”
“Open A Pop-Up Shop In Spare Office Space” = “Open A Pop-Up Shop In Spare Westminster Office Space.”
“Close Subsidised Council Canteens” = “Close Subsidised Parliament Bars.”
“Cancel Away Days In Posh Hotels And Glitzy Award Ceremonies” = Don’t get me started!
For the record – The council has never paid for me to go away to a posh hotel. The one “Glitzy Award Ceremony” I attended cost me £80.00 in travel, food and drink. My own money, not the taxpayers. I’ve never had or been offered a “charge card.” Our canteen isn’t subsidised, it’s as expensive as anywhere else and moreso than some. Many of the ideas on Eric’s list don’t apply to Cambridgeshire County Council because we already do it or have never done it (respectively.) But there are some good ideas in there. So I propose that what we do is thank Eric Pickles respectfully. Wish him a Merry Christmas. Then remind him of that old proverb from Luke 4:23 – Surgeon, Heal Thyself.test Filed under Cambs County Council, Conservatives, General Rant, In The News, Localism | Comments (6)