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A test for the Labour Party over the last week as has been their response to to some of the announcements on local government policy which have been coming from Ministers.

For instance how should they respond to the challenge from communities Secretary Eric Pickles that rather  than cutting services there should be a cut in full time union officials whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers and Council Taxpayers?

In his conference speech Eric wondered why given Labour's supposed concern with defending services they would not criticise this waste of money for union reps.

He said:

“Not a dicky bird from Labour’s local government spokesperson, Jack Dromey. 

“No wonder. Because that former union baron knows Labour is in hock to the unions.

“In my book, that’s not All Right Jack.

“If unions want to raise money for Labour – do it in your own time, not on the rates.”

Dromey has responded telling the Birmingham Post that this would mean workers were "robbed" of their representation. Not so. Just that union officials should be paid from union subs not the taxpayer:

 Dromey went on:

“Eric Pickles wants to return Britain to the industrial relations of the 19th century mill owner.

“In fact, he looks the part.”

Pickles mentioned a quarter of a billion a year cost to the taxpayer for funding union officials. But there are also indirect costs. The union reps frequently spend their time playing the system. Cases taken by management over absenteeism in some councils are always be contested, strung out for as long as possible. So more staff would be employed in Human Resources Departments to deal with all the nonsense.

Labour has also opposed the extra money for weekly bin collections. But weekly bin collections are overwhelmingly popular. Does Shadow Communities Secretary Caroline Flint feel Labour councils should refuse what she describes as a "bribe"?

On the funding for the Council Tax freeze for a second year the response from Labour is to say that it is old news. (Not true the coalition agreement only said the Government would "seek" to freeze it for a second year.) But are they for or against the Council Tax freeze? The comments from Chris Leslie didn't make this  entirely clear.

The restoration of proper right to buy discounts was criticised by Flint as "desperate" and an "old" policy. So presumably she is against it. That is disappointing after her Purple Book essay praising wider home  ownership.

The Housing Minister Grant Shapps says that councils should be allowed to charge market rents to the 6,000 council tenants earning over £100,000 a year to provide £56 million for house building. Do Labour agree or disagree? They won't answer but say it is a "distraction."

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