Eric Pickles, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, launches ConservativeHome’s new local government blog with a challenge…

I’ve got a question for our Conservative Councillors – are you up for it?

Or, to put it another way – are you part of the dependency culture?

Do you want us to replace one set of targets with another?

Do you really want a Conservative Government to scrap the raft of bureaucracy and regulation that stifles local democracy, or are you just looking for the comfy option?

Dependency culture runs deep. Unless you have been a Councillor for at least a couple of decades you will have no experience of exercising unfettered power and freewill to make decisions for your local community.

I asked local government leaders recently, “do you want us to tear down the prison walls of regulations or do you want me to build you a more comfortable cell?” Perhaps one with a better view, and a more humane jailer?

There is something soporifically comfortable about CPA (Comprehensive Performance Assessment)- you tick the boxes, you get the stars, and then you try to persuade your electorate that this is important.

My own personal preference is to turn the bulldozer towards the prison of regulation with my foot firmly on the accelerator.

In my view there is only one part that matters in CPA, and that is
the opinion research on residents’ attitudes.  What do Council tax
payers think about their local council? It is the first question I ask
every Council Leader and Chief Executive I meet – you will be amazed
how many who don’t know their score. It is a terrible omission and
tells me who their real masters are. We enter into politics to improve
people’s lives through civic pride and civic trust.  It is time to
reinvigorate those great Tory traditions.

Satisfying the public must be our primary concern.

The chances are in a few months the next Conservative Government
will have a unique opportunity of holding power nationally, and
locally.  We should not squander this opportunity, but use it to
introduce localism in its most vibrant form.

We must have the confidence to trust our Councils, and more importantly to have faith in the people who elect them.

I have outlined some of our approach to localism – abolishing
regional planning and the unaccountable regional quangos, scrapping
Labour’s stealth plans for a council tax revaluation. We want to reform
local government from within, enabling councils to work closer together
cross authority, city, county and regional boundaries, rather than
tinkering with structure.

We will look at ways of making the distribution of government grant
fairer, and remove forever the temptations for politicians to favour
their mates. 

We must return powers to local communities in such a way that Central Government will find it impossible to ever take it back.

I hope this new section of ConservativeHome will be used by those
who want to help me tear down the prison walls of regulations and
return power to local people.

ConservativeHome works best when it is argumentative, challenging
and occasionally down right annoying.  Within a few weeks I am
confident that this Councillors’ section will be the first place people
will look to see innovation and fresh ideas in the Conservative Party.