Having burnished his credentials as a minister on cost-cutting and transparency, Eric Pickles stands accused of wasting tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on legal advice and then attempting a cover-up. The DCLG is thought to have paid for external legal advice after Electoral Commission chair Jenny Watson was smeared by a source within the department.
Given the astronomical fees charged to government for legal services, the sum allegedly expended by DCLG has been subject to significant speculation both inside and outside Whitehall. Pickles is currently cowering behind a Freedom of Information loophole but Scrapbook understands the figure may be more than £50,000.
The guilty party has already been fingered by the Local Government Chronicle (£) as one of Pickles’ own special advisers: either former CCHQ staffer Sheridan Westlake (pictured) or Giles Kenningham. Still, no one can say the pair don’t have a sense of irony. A recent departmental press release carried a quote from Pickles which presumably bears the fingerprints of Messrs Westlake and Kenningham:
The sunlight of openness may be uncomfortable for some, but it will expose how taxpayer’s money is being wasted.