With Environment Agency boss Chris Smith on the ropes after a disastrous visit (VIDEO) to flooded Somerset on Friday, Eric Pickles — the cabinet minister with responsibility for flood prevention — decided to make some smug comments before, errr, apologising himself:
“I don’t see myself becoming the advocate of the ‘Save Chris Smith’ campaign or printing ‘Save The Environment Agency One’ T-shirts.”
Suffice it to say his remarks have backfired:
Anyone for a 4XL?
Eric Pickles’ department has been accused of cooking the books to disguise what they are spending on biscuits, the Mirror reports. After news broke on 26 January of a £40,000 hike in the budget for custard creams and other treats, officials responded by shifted several payments to catering suppliers from one financial year to the other — reducing the apparent increase.
This comes after hypocrite Pickles ordered councils to tighten their belts on food:
While a Tory source has quipped that the allegations “did not have a crumb of truth”, they may yet discover that fiddling official transparency figures is no laughing matter.
It’s not the, errr, digestives that get you — it’s the cover up.
UPDATE: Pickles’ opposite number Hilary Benn has now written to the head of the civil service to complain. Benn says of the accounting changes:
“This, prima facie, appears to be an attempt to smooth out spending so as not to show a big increase in spending between the two financial years.”
“This issue was not so much, of course, what the money was spent on, but rather the apparent attempt to obfuscate scrutiny of accounts.”
That awkward moment when the secretary of state for local government — asked about why councillors feel he is always bashing them — uses a domestic violence metaphor to a select committee …
“When I do a bit of bashing it’s in the confines of a very deep and loving relationship”
Did he tell you the one about the woman with two black eyes?
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.
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.”
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