Recently the BBC reported the following:

Nottingham City Council has issued Eric Pickles’ department with an enforcement notice over an “unkempt” building it owns.

Lancaster House on Sherwood Rise, owned by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is currently empty.

The Labour-run city council said residents had complained about vermin due to rubbish left on the site.

Eric Pickles will not comment on the matter until the DCLG receives the paperwork, expected after Easter.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at the DCLG has now replied:

This building is not owned, leased, occupied or managed by the Government and we have absolutely no legal responsibility for it.

It is owned by private landlords. DCLG has never occupied this property as such, but the Secretary of State is the legal title holder for a large amount of the Civil Estate. I would note that the occupation and lease of the property by another government agency ended in August 2012.

Accordingly, your notice was wrongly served. I enclose a copy of our formal response from our lawyers making this point in robust legal terms.

Had the Council bothered to undertake proper research and check the facts, this expense to local and national taxpayers could have been avoided. I can only reasonably conclude that this was a political stunt by the Council but one which has backfired given the Council’s claims are demonstrably untrue and given taxpayers’ money has been wasted as a result.

I would suggest it would be gentlemanly for the Council to offer an apology to the Secretary of State, given the unjustified and unfounded personal attack. If the Council declines to give one, the public will be able to draw their own conclusions on how your councillors conduct themselves in public life.

Of course the Labour councillors have not apologised. Cynically they will hope that the original allegation will have been given more attention in the media than the subsequent discovery that the allegation was false.