Pickles and Shapps – The Laurel and Hardy of DCLG?

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  • That Newham Council is wasting money by moving its staff from 26 outdated offices into one new modern one.

Et al!

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?

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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5 Responses to Pickles and Shapps – The Laurel and Hardy of DCLG?

  1. shodanalexm says:

    Laurel and Hardy – I think that’s being a bit kind! And no one put Laurel and Hardy in charge of anything of any significance.

    We also seem to be in a world in which politicians feel that if they say something often enough and loud enough that somehow makes it true, regardless of how big a pile of nonsense it is. Some of the statistical distortions that are being perpetrated in order to claim that the cuts are not actually not too bad are an absolute scandal.

  2. Alex Foster says:

    Was pretty disappointed with Andrew Stunnell going along with it all – and criticising Bradford for their reserves levels on Newsnight.

    It does seem that people who say they can get to grips with local government finance really just haven’t understood it at all.

  3. Dan says:

    Pickles as Laurel? I think he has more in common with Hardy…

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Pickles and Shapps – The Laurel and Hardy of DCLG? | But what does Richard Kemp think? -- Topsy.com

  5. local govt worker says:

    ■That councils are hoarding reserves that could be used to keep council tax down < true if councils (like mine) have dumped all their capital spending in their revenue budget in recent years
    ■That we are paying too much money for top staff < true. my head of service is on £140k which is ridiculous. i have admin colleagues on £35-40k
    ■That only lazy councils need to put up charges for loss making services < depends, not everything should be subsidised by the council tax, some should genuinely be run on a profit / cost recovery basis
    ■That no real people doing real jobs will be lost as a result of the most difficult settlement in 50 years < sensible councils (like the one next door to me) have been planning for this for months and have been quietly stopped recruitment, accepted voluntary redundancies and retirements so keep down job losses.
    ■That the Local Government Association had indicated that we would be satisfied with a 7-8% reduction in spending power < can't comment, but the lga isn't a paragon of virtue on efficiency
    ■That Newham Council is wasting money by moving its staff from 26 outdated offices into one new modern one < true. Newham's spending is a joke

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