Sunday, 17 April 2011

"Localism = giving power to local people" Eric Pickles

Like many of you, I'm sure, I watched Communities Minister Eric Pickles on Newsnight on Wednesday.

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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I emails Eric Pickles's Department the very day that the "Localism Bill" came out, asking if it would cover the next twenty years of the Brent Cross development.

I am still waiting for an answer.

vickim57 said...

Shucks, I was hoping he would come and save our hides, but it looks like we'll have to carry on trying to save ourselves.

Still, the propaganda value is still there, even though it's just rhetoric.

Rog T said...

Vicki,

I wasn't keen on Horace Cutler when he was in charge of the GLC, but he invented the London Marathon and you have to admit it's a great success. Torys do occasionally get things right and it's our job to use the things they get right as best we can. If Pickles has got this right, then that's great and we make the most of it

David Duff said...

"Mrs Angry has a comprehensive post"

When does he ever not?!