Bob Neill MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, has written to all local authority leaders.
Yes, I know, be still my beating heart, a post about local government. I will try to keep it brief and malicious, like Bob Neill’s letter.
Remember how John Prescott’s Standards Board for England curbed freedom of speech for local councillors under the guise of “standards”?
Remember how its supposedly reformed local sucessors demanded that councillors “show respect and consideration for others”? This meant, for example, that John Dixon, a Cardiff councillor visiting London who tweeted while passing the Scientologist church in Tottenham Court Road that he just hurried past “in case the stupid rubs off” was reported to the local Standards Board. He was cleared, but as so often, and as the Scientologist who reported him knew very well, the process is the punishment.
Well, the local Standards Boards have in their turn been abolished and new rules come in tomorrow. I have not studied them in detail and am slightly less likely to do so than to gnaw off my own legs. They will probably go bad in their turn. The new rules, not my legs. But just for today, I find myself happy about this part of Bob Neill’s letter:
However, given the importance that the new arrangements are, and are clearly perceived to be, a wholly fresh start we are minded to make further provision so that any former member of a standards committee appointed under the transitional arrangements as an independent person can hold that office only until 30 June 2013.
So we bid farewell today to some quangocrats. And just for once the revolving door that smoothly glides in front of such people as it leads them from one sinecure to the next has stuck.