What You Can Get Away With » bob neill

Remember localism? That grand idea that Government ought to stop interfering in the business of local councils and let them run services the way they thought would be best for their residents.

If you don’t, don’t worry. Turns out the Government – or at least the DCLG – doesn’t either. Chris White did a good job of pointing out some of the flaws in the Localism Bill on Lib Dem Voice this morning, but the real torpedoing of the idea below the waterline turns out to be a self-inflicted wound.

The only real surprise is that the wound appears to have been caused by Bob Neill rather than Eric Pickles, but as Neill is just echoing similar comments previously made by Pickles and giving them the stamp of kneejerk policy, he’s clearly doing Pickles’ work for him here.

Yes, it seems that councils should no longer have the power to decide how to collect their residents’ domestic waste as Bob Neill has clearly researched the issue in depth, spent lots of times with the various modelling tools and data sources that show the pros and cons of different collection methods, then come to a reasoned conclusion been reading the Daily Mail far too often, and decided that Whitehall knows best. Yes, he’s going to step in and “reverse the legacy of Labour’s savage cutbacks to weekly rubbish collections” which shows a spectacular failure by a local government minister to note that a) councils of all political stripes have moved away from weekly rubbish collections, and b) there are a whole lot more Tory-run councils than there are Labour-run ones, none of which have shown much of a desire to reverse any supposed legacy in this area.

Neill also seems to have spent the last month or so out of the country – or at least, I assume he has, otherwise he’s completely failed to notice the thick blanket of white slippery stuff that’s covered much of the country in that time. It’s perhaps not a shock to most people to discover that bin lorries – which move relatively slowly and are required to start and stop frequently – don’t always operate too well on icy roads.

What’s becoming clear is that rather than becoming the enabler and champion for localism, the DCLG is perhaps the biggest obstacle in the way it happens. Indeed, it says something about the way Britain is governed in that we still have a centrally-run department for local government, seemingly dedicated to ensuring that nothing at all happens locally that Whitehall hasn’t approved of. Labour were at least open about this centralised controlling tendency, decreeing new sets of targets and indicators almost daily, but now we’re in a situation where councils are told to do what they want right up until the moment when a minister shouts ‘stop!’ and berates them for doing it.

True localism would see the DCLG being abolished and Eric Pickles happily proclaiming that he’s made himself redundant, but I doubt we’ll see that any time soon.

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