Since Eric Pickles is a working-class lad from Keighley rather too many people underestimate both his intelligence and his sense of mission. Perhaps, in the latter case, they’ll wake up following his speech to the Local Government Association Conference:
“Is it really right, in this day and age, to have separate planning departments? Lawyers? Communications teams? Wouldn’t it be better if people were working together?
That’s especially important for the highest levels and the most expensive people. It’s obviously a bad week to raise things that Germany does better than us, but they’ve really got the idea in local government. Where they’ve ended up with chief executives and executive leaders doing more or less the same thing; they’ve flat out stopped it.
Couldn’t chief execs bring more to the table by working across boundaries, rather than replicating what the leader should be doing?”
Those who remember 1988 in Bradford will recognise the objective – streamlining the council, fewer senior officers, outsourced services and an all-together blunter approach. Eric’s is very much that of what we once called the ‘soft loo paper’ Tory – what matters are the ordinary, everyday services delivered to local residents. None of this “change”, no social engineering and the barest smattering of political correctness. Give people what they want from their council at a fair price and they’ll love you for it.
To do this we don’t need libraries full of strategies, floors crammed with policy officers or whole phalanxes of people employed to count black people. We need what we had in that rose-tinted past – solid folk, doing a steady job, in the local neighbourhood trying to make it a comfortable, pleasant and tolerant place to live, work and play.
And helping Eric deliver this will be my ward colleague and Chair of the LGA, Margaret Eaton – who was Chairman of Housing & Social Services in Eric’s Bradford administration. A formidable and successful team then and, I’ve no doubt, a great team today. I shall enjoy the fun!