The front page story in this morning’s Guardian should have been interesting reading for most Conservative Councillors:
The Conservatives have told the party’s council leaders to stop cooperating with the Labour government in anticipation of David Cameron winning the next general election.
The campaign is part of a new Tory strategy “to say no” to demands from the centre, and has drawn fierce criticism from ministers, who believe it is “political hubris” and assumes Labour has lost the election two years before polling day.
Dozens of the Tories’ most powerful council leaders were told about the plan during a closed meeting in Nottingham with Eric Pickles, the shadow communities and local government secretary.
Pickles, who masterminded the party’s win in the Crewe and Nantwich byelection, said the time had come to stop working with central government on issues they disagree with. “The time is overdue for Conservative councils to stand up to this bullying and controlling government on behalf of their communities. It is time for Conservative councils to just say no.”
Conservative councils could end up clashing with the government on areas such as rubbish collection, where ministers want to enforce fortnightly collections to encourage recycling, and eco-towns, many of which are planned in areas covered by Conservative authorities.
Councils are also under pressure to provide statistics on a range of their services and appointments, which Tory councils have opposed as over-bureaucratic and a waste of resources.
Even if the Conservatives in Rochford adopted this attitude tomorrow, it’s going to be a bit late – the council has already followed the Labour policy of having a cabinet system. And the feedback from local Tories is that a Conservative gorvernment wouldn’t alter the proposed housing figures for the district.
However there has been a huge emphasis in local government recently on following central government aims, meeting central government targets and enduring too much central government appraisal. If district councils can start to resist this, they could concentrate more on what the councillors actually want to do.