You’ll remember communities secretary Eric Pickles is quite fond of the occasional junket to India – he took a particularly expensive jaunt in 2011, which came to an eye watering £12,552.
Now, Scrapbook can reveal Pickles took yet another costly trip to Calcutta this year, during which he ate six curries in a single session.
During the visit to the International Institute of Hotel Management on behalf of UK Trade and Industry, Pickles was served a Saag Gosht, a Chicken Tikka Butter Masala, a Chingri Malaikari, a vegetarian Kadhi Pakodi, a Malabar Fish Curry and a Chicken Chettinad. The 5 day trip cost the taxpayer £4,104 in flights and accommodation.
In an interview with the Calcutta Telegraph, Pickles said:
“This is my first time to Calcutta and I’m definitely coming back!”
Was there ever any doubt?
Eric Pickles’ department are still spending thousands of pounds on first class train travel — after telling the councils that DCLG oversees to ban it.
Promoting his “50 ways to save” document – encouraging councils to slash everything from expensive leadership courses to document translation – last December, the Telegraph reported:
“Mr Pickles also said that pay for senior staff should be cut, recruitment should be frozen, first-class travel banned and spending on outside consultants reduced.”
But documents seen by Scrapbook show that DCLG are still spending more than £13,000 per year on first class tickets. This is not the first time Eric has been caught with his pants down on the spending hypocrisy front.
He recently cost taxpayers £90,000 after losing a court case with a trade union over a £9.40 per month admin bill.
Eric Pickles has been accused of swearing in front of a young child. When challenged over his decision to approve the demolition of ancient woodland to make way for a quarry near Maidstone, local Lib Dems claim he called local councillor Tony Harwood a “little shit” in front of his daughter — before storming off into a curry restaurant.
A local resident described the scene, which unfolded as Pickles rushed to a champagne lunch in aid of millionaire expenses trougher Helen Grant:
“I was amazed when he swore at Tony. The whole attitude of Pickles was contemptuous. And this followed the behaviour of our MP who sat in her car rather than talk to her constituents, then scurried into the restaurant.”
And despite personally signing off on the decision, which had been “called in” by his department, Pickles did an Iain Duncan Smith and tried to blame his civil servants:
“This is nothing to do with me. It was decided by a junior official.”
Did the junior official call the councillor a “little shit” too?
Eric Pickles has been defeated in a court case brought by PCS over union-busting tactics at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Instead of following the advice his department was giving to councils — to charge administration fees for the “check off” system for payment of union subs — Pickles pressed ahead and landed the taxpayer with a legal bill which is claimed to be £90,000.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
”It is staggering that Eric Pickles pressed ahead with this reckless and political attempt to undermine our union in his department.
“Pickles has very serious questions to answer about why he decided to spend tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money fighting to scrap something that costs less than £30 a month.”
SEE PREVIOUS SCRAPBOOK COVERAGE:
Eric Pickles faces his second High Court skirmish over his union-busting tactics today. The Brentwood MP’s department is the subject of legal action over his attempts to reduce his number of organised staff in DCLG.
Pickles wants to abolish the “check off” system which is used to collect membership subscriptions directly from pay packets — even if unions pay the small administration fee. With DCLG failing to have the case — brought by the PCS union – dismissed out of hand at a hearing last month, the matter is likely to be decided today or tomorrow.
While the check off system costs £30 per month to administer, Pickles’ legal bill could run to £50,000 if he loses.
SEE ALSO: Pickles served by PCS
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has a hot date on Thursday … at the High Court. As Scrapbook revealed last week, PCS are taking him to court over his union-busting attempts to drive down the number of organised staff in his department.
Pickles has shunned the opportunity to reach a money-saving deal for the “check-off” system used to collect union subscriptions from wages by following the advice of his own department and having unions pick up admin costs. Instead, Pickles has pressed ahead by, errr, hiring lawyer James Eadie – at god knows what cost to the taxpayer.
The claimed basis for these changes is saving £9.40 per month … so he hires a QC.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles is the subject of legal action in the High Court after he refused to back down in a confrontation over union busting, Political Scrapbook can reveal. As this blog reported last week, Pickles plans to clamp down on union membership by abolishing the “check off” system used to collect subscriptions — even if the unions pay the small administration costs.
Flying in the face of DCLG’s own advice that local authorities should charge unions rather than scrap the programme, the move makes a mockery of claims that anti-union reforms are merely aimed at cost saving. And while the move will save no money whatsoever, the legal bill for defending Pickles’ ruse will likely run into thousands of pounds.
A source familiar with the situation told Scrapbook:
“Senior DCLG officials have confirmed check off costs just £9.40 a month to administer for each of the three unions represented in the department – a total of £28.20 a month.”
With mooted plans to abolish check off across government, it may be no coincidence that Pickles’ department’s top civil servant Bob Kerslake is also the head of the civil service.
You can read the legal letter from PCS’ lawyers below.
More: Read the legal letter below »
UPDATE: PCS say they will sue Pickles over the changes unless he backs down, saying the changes are a breach of contract for staff: “Hopefully he will now see sense and not waste any taxpayers’ money trying to defend a legal case that we believe is cut and dried.”
While the government has been careful to frame many attacks on trade unions as cost-saving, Eric Pickles’ new flank against his own employees has been exposed as a right-wing attack which does not save a penny.
Earlier this year, Pickles announced plans to reform the ”check off” system, in which employees who want to sign up to a trade union can have their monthly subscription deducted directly from their pay packet.
In guidance issued to councils, the department said:
“Councils can exercise existing legal rights to charge trade unions for the collection of trade union subscription fees via the municipal payroll (so-called ‘check off’ arrangements).”
While local authorities manage their own relationships with unions, Scrapbook can confirm that the option of charging was never on the table for PCS members employed directly from Whitehall — contrary to the department’s own guidance that unions should be given the option of covering administrative costs.
This isn’t slashing costs — it’s slashing the number of organised employees.