If you listened to PMQs yesterday you will have heard repeated references to pantomimes. My thoughts have been in a similar direction regarding Messrs Pickles and Shapps. I tried to thank of a way of encapsulating my thoughts for them in a way that will be easily understood.
Would Batman and Robin be suitable – No far too dynamic! Andy Pandy and Teddy perhaps – tempting but not quite hitting the spot! Bill and Ben? Difficulty with fitting in the flower pots I am afraid. And then it came to me – Laurel and Hardy – as all of us in local government contemplate “Another fine mess they’ve gotten us into!”
The Government had to make big savings – most of us know that and even Caroline Flint acknowledged that Labour would have had to make savings in the local government settlement (although she did not say how much, what or where). But any sympathy that we might have had with the Government is rapidly dissipated by the activity of this dastardly duo.
Old Eric was so keen to curry favour with Cameron that he was the first to settle. Treasury politicians and officials were, I understand, amazed at the way he rushed to settle and then realised what bad settlement he had made. Local Government which is, according to Cameron, the most efficient part of government took a bigger hit and more quickly than any other part of Government. As Laurel contemplated what he had done he did what he is best at – he went onto the attack to try and cover up for his gross incompetence.
In the past couple of weeks either He or Hardy have suggested:
- That councils are hoarding reserves that could be used to keep council tax down
- That we are paying too much money for top staff
- That only lazy councils need to put up charges for loss making services
- That no real people doing real jobs will be lost as a result of the most difficult settlement in 50 years
- That the Local Government Association had indicated that we would be satisfied with a 7-8% reduction in spending power
- That Newham Council is wasting money by moving its staff from 26 outdated offices into one new modern one.
None of these are true. I am angry about the nonsense they are talking – behind the scenes leading Tory councillors are incensed but are afraid to speak out.
The facts are simple. Either Pickles and Shapps do not understand what they are talking about which would mean they area shambolic pair; or they are deliberately saying things which are incorrect in which case they are a disgrace to their office; or they don’t know what is being said in their name by a couple of boy scouts they employ as SPADs who have no experience of running anything anywhere at any time.
In any of these three cases it is not good enough. Local government is too important to too many people, especially those in greatest need, to be left to a couple of jokers. Does Cameron have the wisdom and guts to act?