The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has sent the following letter to all Conservative MPs. It provides an excellent summary of what his department has achieved since the last General Election.
Delivering Conservative Policies: Communities and Local Government
As we approach the end of term, I thought colleagues may find useful some examples of the Conservative policies that the Coalition Government has notably delivered to date. We have:
Cut local taxes for families and firms
- Worked with councils to freeze council tax for three years. Under Labour, council tax more than doubled. Under this Government, bills have fallen by 10 per cent in real terms.
- Scrapped Labour’s plans for an expensive and intrusive council tax revaluation, which would have meant soaring tax bills for millions of hard-working families and pensioners.
- Abolished Labour’s new bin taxes on family homes, which would have harmed the local environment by fuelling fly-tipping and backyard burning.
- Cut business rates for small firms and small shops, by doubling their rate relief from 2010 to 2014. As a result, 330,000 small firms are paying no rates at all thanks to this tax holiday.
- Scrapped Labour’s ports tax – stopping unfair retrospective business rates on firms in ports that threatened to decimate those firms and damage England’s whole manufacturing sector.
Axed quangos, stopped waste
- Abolished unelected regional government. The Regional Assemblies, the Government Offices for the Regions and the Regional Development Agencies have been scrapped.
- Cancelled John Prescott’s botched plans for the regionalisation of the fire service.
- Axed the Standards Board, which fuelled petty and malicious complaints against councillors and suppressed freedom of speech in local government.
- As part of the abolition of the Audit Commission, its Comprehensive Area Assessment has been scrapped and its audit contracts have all been outsourced. Councils are already benefiting from an estimated £1 billion of savings over the next ten years.
- Slashed DCLG spending on corporate credit cards from £320,000 a year to just £27,000 a year, with every single transaction since 2006 placed online – exposing Labour’s record of waste.
- Cut the Department for Communities and Local Government’s running costs by almost half – more than any other department. We’ve cut waste, cut staff numbers, cut red tape – and even closed down the Labour Government’s secret pub for civil servants in our basement.
Helped homeowners, supported home ownership
- Kept the cost of mortgages low, thanks to the action taken to tackle Labour’s deficit (just a one per cent rise in market interest rates represents £1,000 extra on every family’s mortgage bill).
- Abolished Labour’s expensive and pointless red tape of Home
- Increased Right to Buy discounts to £75,000 (£100,000 in London), reversing Labour’s stealth cuts.
- Supported home ownership and shared ownership schemes, through the FirstBuy scheme – which is now being superseded by the popular new Help to Buy scheme.
- Prioritised Armed Forces for social housing and first-time buyer schemes; given councils greater freedoms to allocate social housing to local residents who work hard and play by the rules.
- Curtailed socialist powers of the state to seize private property (Labour’s Empty Dwelling Management Orders).
Ensured fair play on planning
- Scrapped all of Labour’s Regional Spatial Strategies (in England outside London).
- Given new powers to councils to resist unwanted garden grabbing, protected the Green Belt and introduced a new planning protection for valuable local green spaces.
- Abolished Labour’s Whitehall diktats which forced councils to hike parking charges and which restricted the provision of car parking spaces in new homes and offices.
- Cut planning red tape, making the system quicker, simpler and more accessible to local residents and local firms; we are helping get empty buildings back into use, support home improvements in consultation with local neighbours, and back new and expanded state/free schools.
- Given councils new powers to tackle unauthorised traveller sites and scrapped John Prescott’s planning rules on travellers which fuelled community tensions, including revoking his 186 page guidance on ‘equality and diversity in planning’.
Taken on political correctness and the left
- Allowed councils to disregard a legal challenge by aggressive secularists to stop the long-standing practice of prayers at town hall meetings.
- Told council officers to stop the gold-plating of equality rules, which demanded that local residents fill out intrusive questionnaires about their religion and sexual orientation.
- Backed British values and identity, flying the United Kingdom’s national and traditional county flags; supported teaching the English language rather than translating documents into foreign languages and ceasing to appease non-violent extremists.
- Slashed back trade union “facility time” in DCLG to private sector levels, and published guidance for councils on how they can save money by getting rid of trade union “pilgrims”.
Devolved power down to local communities
- Given councils stronger powers on licensing to tackle the alcohol-fuelled violence that blights our town centres at night.
- Granted councils more financial freedoms to help promote economic growth, through the local retention of business rates and the New Homes Bonus.
- Opened up councils’ books with a new era of town hall transparency, with greater local autonomy for local government being accompanied by stronger local accountability.
- Introduced new community rights to stop the closure of other local community facilities and powers for local voluntary groups to run local services.
We have done a lot, but there’s more to do. We are delivering on Conservative policies and cleaning up Labour’s mess.
I hope this will help your communications with local supporters.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government