Regular readers may remember Eric Pickles’ trip to India – at which the local government secretary ate six curries in one session. While the taxpayers’ bill for the jaunt was initially reported as £4,000, a parliamentary question has forced DCLG to disclose the full cost of the trip — nearly £8,000 including support costs.
That menu again:
- Saag Gosht
- Chicken Tikka Butter Masala
- Chingri Malaikari
- vegetarian Kadhi Pakodi
- Malabar Fish Curry
- Chicken Chettinad
Attempting to justify the visit, DCLG minister Brandon Lewis cited a David Cameron speech on Indo-British business links:
“I want to take the relationship between India and Britain to the next level. I want to make it stronger, wider and deeper.”
A bit like Pickles’ jacket measurements then.
Local Conservatives are in open revolt over plans to bar councillors from the Local Government Pension Scheme. Having backed savage cuts to the hilt, leading Tories have changed their tune now that they themselves are affected – with one former county council leader slamming Eric Pickles’ plans as “nasty and vindictive”.
Naturally, the Tories have invented a panoply of other reasons why it’s bad for them to be on the receiving end for a change. Step forward council leader and Local Government Association rep Gary Porter, who told LGC that it was all about “ordinary people”:
“I’ve always supported the removal of barriers to ordinary people becoming councillors and while a pension may not be much of an incentive, being eligible for one is one less disincentive to standing.”
Meanwhile former county leader Shona Johnstone pleads: ‘Won’t someone just think of the young people?’
“This will not save much money and it will deter quality younger people from becoming councillors.”
The DCLG minister charged with pushing the changes through, Brandon Lewis, explains that the government:
“did not believe that taxpayer-funded pensions are justified [because councillors were] not professional, full-time politicians, nor should they be encouraged to become so”.
He should probably have a word with some of Boris Johnson’s appointees, for whom the road to City Hall was paved with paid appointments worth tens of thousands of pounds.