Gavin Esler failed to give Graham Chapman, deputy leader of Nottingham City Council, what he promised and get Eric Pickles to say what happens next year when further cuts have to be made and particularly poorer councils are squeezed yet further. Whereas Pickles insists that councils only have to cut 4.4% on average, the councils with the most deprivation are having to cut the most: Nottingham City Council is cutting 16% this year, Liverpool even more.
That failure aside, the whole feature was very interesting.
I was particularly struck by Pickles' insistence (a jibe he made against Graham Chapman):
I’m afraid the councillor seems to think that localism is about giving powers to councillors. It’s not. It’s about giving power to local people...There are many aspects of Pickles' "localism" agenda that do appear to give more power to local politicians, for example, he was promising to call in fewer planning applications than Labour did.
His bonfire of the statutory duties (although he insists that he just wants to trim a bit, not cut such things as the need to make a policy to tackle homelessness) will be of interest most to council administrations.
(Although I am sure there is a new hobby for trainspotter-type ordinary citizens of combing through all the 1,294 duties on local authorities, accessible here if you want to try it yourself.)
However, we must make the most of what Pickles says about localism meaning rights for residents to have more information about what local government is doing, and, by implication, more power over it!
That means insisting on what he has said about residents' right to film from the public gallery at council meetings, and opposing vehemently the proposed reductions in residents' rights to question the council at residents forums.
Mrs Angry has a comprehensive post listing what the council is proposing in this regard. Here is yet another subject, I feel, on which we must correspond with Eric Pickles.
Much as I dislike the man's politics generally, we have to use what this Tory nationally is saying about residents' rights, against what "our" Tories are saying locally.
If you want to leave Minister Pickles a comment on any of the ways that Barnet council is trying to curtail residents' rights to scrutinise, you can do it here.