Communities secretary a “clown”

Local authority chief protests over cuts and asks Pickles: "What planet are you on?" By Kevin Gopal

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Communities secretary Eric Pickles has been called a “clown” by the chief executive of Barnsley Council for his suggestion that spending cuts will not harm well-run councils.

Barnsley Council is facing cuts to its budget of £26 million this year and a total of £45 million over the next four years.

Its chief executive, Phil Coppard, criticised Pickles – himself a former Yorkshire council leader – for his suggestion that councils should be able to avoid savage cuts and job losses by sharing resources, cutting executive pay and using their reserves.

Coppard told BBC Radio Sheffield: “You’ve got this clown of a secretary of state saying that in well-run councils the public won’t notice any difference. I mean, what planet is this guy on?

“Public servants aren’t supposed to be angry but you look at this and it’s unfair. It’s the big lie tactic that if you tell a big enough lie, and say it often enough, then people will believe it.”

Coppard received support from the leader of the Labour-run Barnsley local authority, Steve Houghton, who said: “He knows what that means for jobs, for services, for the impact on Barnsley’s community – and he knows it’s wrong.”

Worse than expected

In his new year message earlier in the week, Houghton said: “It’s very hard to wish the people of Barnsley a happy new year, when we all face such a difficult and challenging year ahead, with a cuts situation which is now much worse than even we, as a council, had originally expected.”

But campaigning in the Oldham East and Saddleworth byelection, David Cameron defended the scale of town hall cuts and denied they would affect northern councils more than better off southern ones.

The prime minister told the Manchester Evening News: “We made sure it was very fair in terms of spending power so
I don’t accept that some parts of the country got a bad deal.”

Photo: Communities secretary Eric Pickles is himself a former council leader

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