Eric Pickles – 1992 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the then Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar, in the House of Commons on 5 June 1992.

thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to address the House for the first time. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford). I have read many of his articles, always with pleasure. However, having reached the end of an article, I have often, regretfully, had to disagree with him.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Robert McCrindle, who served with great distinction the people of Brentwood and Ongar, and its predecessor constituencies, in the House. He was rightly regarded by his constituents with great affection. He spoke with great authority in many debates, particularly those on financial services and aviation. His first speech was typically a battle on behalf of his constituents with regard to compulsory purchase. His last speech was, again typically, a battle on behalf of Brentwood and Ongar. He told the Government in no uncertain terms that the people of Brentwood and Ongar do not want the M12, which is blighting my constituency. As you may know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Sir Robert did not enjoy the best of health during his last few years as a Member of Parliament. Therefore, I am sure that the whole House will be pleased to know that Sir Robert is now in very good health. I am confident that both he and his wife Myra will enjoy many happy and healthy years of retirement from politics.

Brentwood and Ongar is situated about 20 miles to the north-east of this House, in the county of Essex. Since my adoption of Essex, it has become clear to me that the people of the country are divided into two—those who come from Essex and those who wish they came from Essex. For a Yorkshireman to say that is true praise indeed.

My constituency straddles the two main conurbations of Abridge and West Horndon. It has played a curious and significant part in the nation’s history. According to Robert Graves, it was the scene where a singular battle over sovereignty was fought—not over the treaty of Rome but over the treaty of the Roman legions. It was the place where the Emperor Claudius met the ancient Britons. The residents of Brentwood and Ongar were the first to see elephants on these shores. Our association with elephants continued for 2,000 years. The East India Company decided to set up its training school for elephants in Brentwood. It was there that the first, second or even third sons of the landed gentry met those huge quadrupeds for the first time. Stories still abound among my constituents about these bewildered members of the aristocracy losing themselves in Brentwood and Ongar.

The site of that elephant training school is now the headquarters of Ford UK and Ford Europe. Many international and national companies are to be found in my constituency. Rhone Poulenc, a French pharmaceutical company, has based its research facility in Brentwood and Ongar. It is also the headquarters of Amstrad, the computer company which has done so much to ensure that ordinary people have the opportunity to own personal computers. While retaining its traditions, therefore, Brentwood and Ongar is a constituency which looks to the future. I am proud to represent it here.

About 80 per cent. of Brentwood and Ongar’s housing stock is now in owner-occupation. The two district councils are the largest providers of rented housing for the remaining 20 per cent. In Brentwood there has been a decline of about 3 per cent. a year in the public rented sector, largely as a result of right-to-buy. There have been more than 2,000 sales since the scheme began. That is a remarkable achievement.

Public housing was largely responsible for the forming of my own political views, contrary to the political tradition of my family. I was brought up on a council estate in the West Riding of Yorkshire where my parents ran a small corner shop. As I looked at the style and condition of the houses occupied by my friends and neighbours, my conviction grew that they deserved a better landlord. I served for many years on a local authority and do not want to paint all local authorities black, but, even when they are at their most benign, they do not make good landlords. They are cumbersome and bureaucratic. Pavements remain cracked for want of inspection; window frames remain unpainted for want of a form. Brave is a tenant who decides to take matters into his own hands. To me, there is no such thing as a golden age of public housing.

Any reasonable housing policy must be based on quality, diversity and choice. Above all, it must be based on what people want. People simply want to own their own homes. According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders and a recent BBC survey, 77 per cent. of the population believe that to own their own homes is the ideal tenure. I have heard hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber argue that the British obsession with wanting to own one’s home is wrong. That message is particularly hard to swallow when it is given by people who come from families who are second, third or even fourth generation owner-occupiers. Perhaps my socialist ancestors would approve of what I think about those sentiments: what is good enough for the toffs is good enough for the workers. People have the right to own their own homes. We have an obligation to ensure that they can do so.

I welcome the Minister’s reference to the rents-to-mortgages scheme. I understand and fully appreciate that it will not have the same impact as right-to-buy, but it will enable people, just one or two steps down the housing ladder, to own their own homes. I expect more people thereby to achieve their goal of home ownership. Nevertheless, I recognise that, for reasons of mobility and disposable income, some people may not want to buy. To offer diversity and choice represents a great challenge to both the Government and local government. It is a reflection of the greater challenge that faces the Government, which is to ensure that choice, freedom and opportunity are taken further down the social and economic ladder.

I am especially pleased that my hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the concept of empowerment, which is the key to tenants’ rights. We need to ensure that there are methods other than purchase by which tenants can exercise choice and enjoy freedom.

The more tenants are involved in the running of estates, the better those estates will be. And the more officials are removed from their air-conditioned towers and work and manage from estates, the better the estates will be. When I talk to housing officials, I sometimes feel that they regard estates as distant colonies—that there is a new form of colonialism, with the inspector going round once a month. If people have to drive past graffiti, cracked paving stones and holes in the road, those problems suddenly assume the importance that they should and suddenly the council gets round to doing something about them. I believe that the area management of estates is vital—just as important as the tenants charter.

I welcome the promise that, in the autumn, the right to repair will be improved, because at present the provisions are a little cumbersome and difficult to understand. Will my hon. Friend the Minister give his attention to, and perhaps also give us some further details on, the right of improvement? If people are to have the opportunity to use their own homes as their own homes, we must ensure that, when they decide to leave them, they are financially compensated for the improvements that they have made. If anything, the present right of improvement poses more difficulties than the right of repair and I should welcome a commitment to improve that right in the legislation.

I believe that council housing is now moving into a different age. Too much energy has been wasted on trying to find ways round regulations, on trying to prevent tenants from buying their own homes and on trying to stop housing action trusts coming into being. If just a quarter of that effort and vitality had been put into ensuring that tenants had a better deal and more opportunity to decide the way in which their homes, environment and estates were managed, the stock of public housing would be materially better than it is today.

Eric Pickles – 2016 Speech on Anti-Semitism


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the United Kingdom Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, in Berlin on 21 March 2016.

It’s a great pleasure to be here. It was a great honour to be at the Bundestag yesterday when Chancellor Merkel delivered a very important speech. I’d like to thank the organisers for putting together such a good programme.

We are just about to build a new monument to the Holocaust in the United Kingdom, it’s going to go next to the House of Commons, right next to Victoria Tower. And there’s going to be a learning centre.

As part of trying to understand what’s necessary for this, the Imperial War Museum invited me to look around their exhibition, which they are about to revamp. I was looking around, and there are various objects there relating to the build up to the Shoah, and I came across something, about the size of a drinks coaster. It would be handed to somebody, and it said this: ‘You have been seen going in to a Jewish shop. No true German would support a Jewish shop’.

In other words, a boycott on Jewish goods. So what’s the difference between that, and the BDS campaign?

The answer is very straight forward – time. There’s nothing complicated to it, it’s the same thing happening 70 years later. It’s the same ideology, it’s the same language, it’s the same threats. After all the BDS picket and threaten people who are trading with Israel – it’s the same thing.

The only difference between now and 70 years ago, is that bigots don’t have to get out of bed. Seventy years ago, they had to buy themselves some whitewash and a bucket, they had to go down the street and paint all this anti-Jewish language. Now, they can do it from the comfort of their own home. They don’t even have to move the duvet to do it.

If Twitter and Facebook had been available in Nazi Germany, Goebbels would have been an enormous hit. This guy exploited film, he exploited newly-invented radio, you bet he would have worked hard at Facebook and Twitter.

When you go to the darker fringes of those websites, Joeseph Goebbels’ spirit lives on.

It is unacceptable, for citizens of any European country not to be able to walk the streets without fearing abuse or something more serious. And it is a dereliction of duty by Governments to allow this to go on unchecked.

It’s clear to me that the broader problem of tackling extremism in our society cannot be advanced without integrating antisemitism into that policy. Antisemitism and extremism are like DNA, they run together. You can’t come up with a coherent policy relating to one, without tackling the other.

Now Michael Gove spoke earlier about the number of incidents in Britain, 924 last year, a drop from almost 1,200 the year before. Absolutely we need to understand that these incidents are not often violent – we understand that – but there is a coarseness, there is a nastiness, that didn’t exist in the United Kingdom twenty years ago.

We have a conference for our political parties, we all have conferences – the last one was in Manchester, a beautiful town in the north of England. We had outside a group of privileged and expensively dressed left-wing activists. They used this occasion to spit and shout abuse at delegates going into the conference.

One young lad came past, very smart, wearing a Kippur, and the chant went up: ‘Hey you not-very-nice-description-of-a-Jew, why don’t you go back to Auschwitz, why don’t you go up the chimney?’

This is Britain! I couldn’t believe it. And there were our policemen, just standing by. That is unacceptable.

When a Jewish person can’t walk in to a political conference, without fear of being spat at and abused, then there is something deeply wrong in society.

We know from attacks elsewhere – be it in Paris or Denmark – that there are more serious threats, and it’s only natural that we want to ensure our population should be safe. The first duty of a Government is to ensure the safety of its citizens, and of course British Jews are a vital part of the British identity. If British Jews were to leave the United Kingdom, part of our identity would go with that process.

The Government funds the security of Jewish institutions, including schools both private and public. This year this that commitment is worth 17.2 million Euros. Children deserve to go to school without fear.

The Government is also preventing those who profess antisemitic views from entering the country, like the self-described comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala. My view is that a comedian should make people laugh, it should be a joyful thing. I can’t see how anyone can describe themselves as a comedian when they peddle hate and encourage others to despise their fellow man.

Obviously tougher security only helps to tackle the symptoms, and not the causes of antisemitism. It can’t be right in the long term that children have to go to school guarded by police. We need to work for other solutions.

Importantly the Government works with the community to build trust and shows that we are on the same side. You heard from colleagues this morning about the various working parties on antisemitism, and my colleague Luciana [Berger] also talked about the publication of this new pamphlet, and she said that I would talk to you about it. I must confess that at that point I hadn’t read it!

But I now have, it takes fifteen minutes, it makes ten recommendations, it tells you how to get organised in dealing with antisemitism, it will be on the web, and I urge to read it, I urge you to use it – it’s only got twenty two pages, you can read it between here and the airport! By the time you return home, you can get yourself organised.

The antisemites are organised, and we’ve got to be better organised. And it’s free!

It’s important that communities not only see Government tackling antisemitism, but that the community can also raise concerns. We have a very high level of data sharing, between community organisations and the police, who take issues extremely seriously.

We’ve been talking about the working definition, relating to the state of Israel, but our police have already adopted that working definition, and we’ve found it extremely useful in order to be able to define incidents of antisemitism.

We’ve taken those lessons that we’ve learnt in terms of fighting antisemitism, to also apply them to those seeking to persecute Muslim groups. We’ve used the same techniques, the same definitions, and we’ve found it was very easily transferable, and all this would have been very difficult to set up without the active work of the British Jewish community.

Fundamentally our efforts to tackle antisemitism need to be building more integrated communities, one where antisemitic views, and prejudiced views of all kinds, are shunned. It starts by having zero tolerance to discrimination. For example the United Kingdom is privileged to have one of the best football leagues in the world, but we need to make sure that their fans behave reasonably.

Some clubs’ fans have a reputation for using antisemitic slogans. We had a law that said that if you had a process of due diligence, you weren’t responsible for your fans. We changed that. There is now no defence, even if you have been diligent. You are responsible for the way in which your fans behave, and that has made a big difference.

It also means breaking down barriers, and helping people to get to know one another, because when people work together they realise that their preconceptions were totally wrong.

The UK Government sponsors the Anne Frank Trust, which uses the story of Anne Frank to teach the dangers of prejudice while also encouraging aspiration and achievement in many deprived areas of the United Kingdom. We have a Near Neighbours fund, a programme that offers grants to local faith organisations to carry out small projects that reach across faith boundaries.

But we’ve got to do a lot more.

With 900 reports of antisemitic incidents in a single year, antisemitism continues to present a real problem, particularly on our university campuses, often under the cover of opposition to Israel.

Of course, we need to preserve freedom of speech, but we also need to ensure that Jewish students can get an education without fear. The internet is too often a place where bigots can give free rein to their dreadful and abhorrent opinions.

We need to redouble our work with internet companies to make sure they deal with prejudiced views on their sites.

We need to continually work to combat antisemitism, and its new disguises and means of expression. In the UK we’re determined never to let our guard down and to be ever-vigilant.

We’ve had some really fine speeches over the last couple of days. You’re not going to remember everything. So I want you to make a special effort with me, and remember just one thing.

This is it: do not be seduced with the idea that education is the cure to antisemitism. If it was, there wouldn’t be a problem. There has been lots of very good education in dealing with antisemitism over the last 70 years. The lesson of Auschwitz itself is a brutal piece of education.

But antisemities are completely immune to education, to facts and to tolerance. They live by bigotry, so while education can be a good foundation, constant vigilance is required. Antisemitism is like the cockroaches that creep out from under the oven after Armageddon. It will always be with us. We must always be vigilant, and we must not allow free speech to masquerade as a defence to this wicked, evil, doctrine.

Thank you.

Eric Pickles – 2014 Statement on Rotherham Council


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, in the House of Commons on 10 September 2014.

One of the most important duties of local authorities is the protection of vulnerable children. Professor Jay’s recent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has painted a horrific and awful picture that the council utterly failed its children.

As Professor Jay noted:

No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.

In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and neglect. It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.

There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators. This abuse is not confined to the past but continues to this day.

Following the publication of the Jay report, my Rt Hon Friend the Home Secretary announced to the House on 2 September 2014 that I was minded to use my powers to commission an independent inspection of the council. In parallel, I would also be considering the implications of the report’s findings for all local authorities in England.

With clearly documented failures by the council on so many levels, the rare step of a statutory inspection is in the public interest. I have now decided to exercise my powers under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999 to appoint Louise Casey CB to carry out an inspection of the compliance of Rotherham metropolitan borough council with the requirements of part 1 of that Act, in relation to the council’s exercise of its functions on governance, children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing.

In undertaking her inspection, I have directed her to consider whether, in exercising its functions on governance, children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing, the local authority:

– allows for adequate scrutiny by councillors

– covers up information, and whether “whistleblowers” are silenced
took and continues to take appropriate action against staff guilty of gross misconduct

– was and continues to be subject to institutionalised political correctness, affecting its decision making on sensitive issues
undertook and continues to undertake sufficient liaisons with other agencies, particularly the police, local health partners, and the safeguarding board

– took and continues to take sufficient steps to ensure only “fit and proper persons” are permitted to hold a taxi licence

– is now taking steps to address effectively past and current weaknesses or shortcomings in the exercise of its functions, and has the capacity to continue to do so

As the statute allows, I also intend to appoint on her recommendation, assistant inspectors to ensure that she has all the skills and experience available to her which she believes are necessary for her to fulfil her remit. Louise Casey will report to me by 30 November 2014, or such later date as I may agree with her, whether or not the council is meeting this duty to secure continuous improvement in respect of its governance, the services it delivers for children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing.

I have appointed Louise Casey to carry out this sensitive task rigorously and independently. I am confident that with her track record of working in public service and particularly in challenging established practices in regard to the most vulnerable – for example, in reducing rough sleeping, as Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses and in her current role as head of the Troubled Families programme – she has the experience and skills to undertake a robust and independent inspection which will provide a full and comprehensive report on these matters.

Beyond the terms of reference I have set out in this statement, it is for Louise Casey, with any assistant inspectors I appoint on her recommendation, to decide how to carry out this inspection, and her findings and conclusions will be a matter for her alone.

Louise will continue to lead the Troubled Families programme. While she is carrying out the inspection in Rotherham, arrangements are being put in place to ensure that progress on troubled families is maintained.

If I am satisfied that an authority is failing to comply with its duty under part 1 of the 1999 Act, that Act gives me the power to statutorily intervene in that authority. Intervention may take a number of forms, including directing the authority to take any action that I consider necessary or expedient to secure its compliance with the 1999 Act duty, or directing that certain of the authority’s functions be undertaken by me or by a person – a commissioner – appointed by me for that purpose. The inspection report that I receive will assist me in reaching my view as to whether or not Rotherham metropolitan borough council is meeting its duty under part 1 of 1999 Act.

As part of my consideration of the implications of the Jay report for all authorities in England, I shall be asking Louise Casey, in addition to and outside the scope of the statutory inspection, to explore the links between Rotherham metropolitan borough council and the police and justice system, and highlight issues that local authorities, police forces and the justice system should consider in their work on child sexual exploitation, and my Rt Hon Friend the Home Secretary welcomes this.

I will also ask Louise Casey to report to me on whether she considers, as a result of undertaking the inspection or otherwise, there are any further matters which might appropriately be drawn to the attention of authorities and other local service providers generally to assist them to improve the delivery of their services, particularly those relating to children and young people.

In order to assist Louise Casey and help my consideration of the wider issues I will be writing to all leaders of principal councils asking them to consider the implications of the Jay report for their own authority.

I will make a statement to the House in due course on the completion of this work and after due consideration of the report.

We cannot undo the permanent harm that these children have suffered. But we can and should take steps to ensure that this never happens again and make sure that all local authorities deliver on their essential duty to protect vulnerable children.

Eric Pickles – 2013 Speech on United in Britishness


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on 5 September 2013.

I want to start by thanking you for work most conscientiously done.

This is a unique group to be addressing – as senior officers and senior councillors many of you have direct experience of walking the streets of your city or town, not knowing if you would be there the next day. Or whether it would have gone up in flames. Whether just one careless incident would undermine years of painstaking work.

If you’ve experienced that I don’t think it ever leaves you.

As councillors you instinctively understand the importance of the clean up operation: sweeping up the glass and cleaning up the graffiti to minimise the impact.

But you also understand the effect such incidents have on individuals and the community.

These are attacks on our very way of life.

We are fighting something entirely un-British – something utterly alien – and for me there is a fundamental test. If a woman cannot pop down to the shops for a pint of milk or a bag of rice because she’s worried about getting lewd threats; because she’s afraid she might be jostled and jeered; because she’s scared she might be spat on – no matter how many committees we set up or programmes we run or reports we write, if there are people in our communities too frightened to venture beyond the doorstep, hesitating simply because they are wearing a headscarf, then we have failed.

Before the election I had great pleasure in going to Paris with Caroline Flint, Vince Cable and Rita Chakrabati to address a conference of European students.It was around the time the French were debating banning face veils in public. I said to the students that this was an absurd thing to do.

I can see circumstances in which covering the face might be unsuitable to the situation, but people going about their private business should be left to do so.

I have to say that many of these young people including the French were rather shocked by my view and wanted me to justify it.

I can be a little blunt sometimes and I simply said, look, we’re not far from the Champs-Elysees and it’s not so long ago that the Gestapo strode through the streets of Paris seeking out Jewish people.

How can the nation of liberty, equality and fraternity have forgotten where intolerance leads and be prepared to contemplate such a restrictive view?

Here in Britain tolerance, decency and respect for others are embedded deep within our psyche.

Our warmth and hospitality, our willingness to welcome other views and embrace other ways of life are what has made Britain a beacon of hope around the world.

Now a few voices from the fringes try and challenge those values:

– whether Islamist preachers of hate peddling a twisted and distorted version of a peaceful faith

– or whether malicious trouble makers on the far left – a rent-a-mob only interested in stirring up trouble

– or those on the far-right who try and claim that being a Muslim and being British are incompatible

Each in their own way attempting to corrode and destroy from within with lies, aggression and violence.

These purveyors of hatred are anti-British.

We try in various ways to counteract their efforts and I think the work of this group has been very helpful in trying out new ideas:

– going online to challenge the myths being spread on social media

– using the legal powers you’ve got to stop marches disrupting people’s lawful business

– and on a couple of occasions rightly sending the EDL a bill to clean up the mess they make

We also undermine them by encouraging communities to come together around solemn occasions such as Remembrance Sunday or what we’re about to do to commemorate next year, and honour those from around what was then the Empire who fought and died for our country.

Or to work together to tackle local social problems as in the near neighbours programme or Together in Service.

Because when people work collectively together the emphasis is on what we have in common – shared values and shared goals – not on difference or division. And we also undermine the extremists by encouraging our fellow Muslim citizens to engage in the wider community, ensuring that everyone has the English they need to play a full part in their community. And through initiatives like the Big Iftar where mosques threw open their doors.

After the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich – a young man in the prime of life wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ t-shirt – Muslim communities were united in revulsion and shouted the loudest of all of us to say not in my name.

In the wake of this senseless death there were a number of attacks on mosques, but still the community was resilient. Still they refused to be cowed or put in the corner – instead they said firmly: we will open our doors, we will welcome in our neighbours and we will work with our community to build a better nation.

We saw that in York where the Muslim community responded to EDL provocation as any Yorkshireman would do – with a cup of tea.

Showing compassion and courage and generosity – a very English gesture and an act of pure genius.

Meeting hatred and anger with friendship – completely defusing the situation.

What a gesture of sincerity, which did so much more good than the self indulgent and pompous posturing of groups like the UAF who are more interested in stirring up further trouble than in actually solving problems.

In Muswell Hill you will recall that their community centre had been burned down, but when I went to take part in the Big Iftar with the local Somali community, there they were inviting in their neighbours to show what Ramadan is all about and showing true British grit.

Not just integrated but an integral part of the community.

And I also saw it in Gillingham when after another grotesque attack on a mosque other community leaders including councillors all came out not only to condemn those actions entirely, but also to support the Muslim community.

I went to share in their Eid celebrations. It was a true privilege to see people of different faiths standing shoulder to shoulder together.

That is where we gain strength – by working together to solve common problems and including everyone so that the faces of our neighbours become familiar and their customs become understood.

It’s especially important for young people – so they grow up open-minded with a strong sense of personal accountability and social responsibility. This is why we are backing the work of Youth United – giving young people a positive place to belong and creating more places in our great British institutions whether the scouts, the sea cadets or the St John Ambulance.

The work we are doing together – the work that each of you do, every day, wherever you live will lead us on the path to a stronger society. But the alternative route – the route offered by the extremists – ultimately ends in the villages of Srebrenicia.

The old century was riven by discord – scarred and despoiled by the Holocaust – but we have a chance in this century. We can be determined to learn the lessons, to set aside hatred and ensure all people of goodwill work together.

That instead of those who preach hate, or those who shout slogans, we will listen to the voices of peace and hope.

Of a people comfortable with differences – accepting of others and united in Britishness.

Thank you very much.

Eric Pickles – 2012 Speech at Local Government Summit


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on 16 January 2012.

There is no greater responsibility, no higher priority for this Government than to get the nation back on track towards renewed, long-term, sustainable growth.

Growth puts people in jobs, keeps families in homes, makes our towns and cities great places to live.

Getting public spending under control has been vital and non-negotiable.

We’ve strained every sinew to do it in a way that protects the most vulnerable.

Today is Blue Monday – officially the most depressing day of the year, as people look ahead to months of chilly weather and paying back their Christmas bills.

This year, it will be tough for many people – facing pay freezes at work, be it in the public or private sector, as well as a rising cost of living.

This is why it’s essential in February and March, as town hall budgets are set, that councils sign up to the council tax freeze.

It’s practical help every councillor can offer to their ward constituents. A vote against the council tax freeze is a vote for punishing tax-rises. Local taxpayers will remember that decision next time they cast their vote at the ballot box.

Councillors have a moral duty to sign up to keep down the cost of living – anything less is a kick in the teeth to hard-working, decent taxpayers.

But cutting the deficit is only the first step.

We want to give investors confidence to invest.

Make it easy for entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to market.

Make Britain one of the best places in Europe, if not the world, to start and grow and business.

Now in the past, supporting growth might have been seen as a job for the Treasury and Business Department.

But we simply don’t have that luxury today.

This is a job for every part of Government.

Including my Department.

I am determined that the Department for Communities and Local Government should be at the forefront of creating the right conditions for local economies to thrive.

Not least because localism and growth are two sides of the same coin.

Localism and Growth

You can’t engineer, can’t manufacture growth through nationally-dictated plans and blueprints.

However well-meaning, however expertly devised, Regional Development Agencies simply didn’t deliver.

Even in the five years to 2008, before the crunch really bit, the number of private sector jobs fell in Birmingham, in Nottingham, in Sheffield, Bradford, Croydon and Leicester.

Instead of trying to impose growth from Whitehall, we want to encourage and celebrate local leadership, ingenuity, and enterprise.

Instead of the public sector going solo, we want to get councils and entrepreneurs working together.

So we’re creating the conditions for local leadership.

Local Enterprise Partnerships put civic leaders and local entrepreneurs in the driving seat as never before.

Partnerships now host two dozen Enterprise Zones – with tax breaks and simple planning rules to attract new firms.

Partnerships have advised firms bidding for the two point four billion pounds available under Regional Growth Fund – helping safeguard jobs everywhere from steelyards in Redcar, to biotechnology start-ups in Plymouth.

And now we’re reforming business rates, so that councils see a direct benefit to their own finances from boosting the local economy…

…and this will give every council every possible reason to work with businesses and entrepreneurs.

But perhaps the policy that best encapsulates the new approach is the Growing Places Fund.

Half a billion quid is up for grabs for local leaders to support enterprise, encourage businesses, create the conditions for local growth.

What have we asked Local Enterprise Partnerships to do to get their hands on it?

Not complete a form the size of a telephone directory…

Not report every five minutes on every step along the way…

But set out they want to do with the cash, and what they aim to deliver, in terms as simple as we could possibly make them.

It’s a process that is based on our trust in local leaders to deliver.

This means making tough decisions and putting the cash where it can make the biggest difference – not where it’s most expedient, or will appease the most people.

Get this right, vindicate our trust, and this could be the shape of things to come.

Get it wrong, and well – we’re back to the strings and guidelines, the gentle breath of the overseer tickling the hairs on the back of your neck.

Over to You

So the spotlight falls on you.

To a great extent, what happens in your area next is in your hands.

We’ve binned the guidance, the strictures, the blueprints.

As local leaders – whether in business or the Town Hall – for the first time in decades – you’ve got a clear run.

Your communities are looking to you to lead. To shape the future of your local economies.

Now after a little over a year of Local Enterprise Partnerships, there has been good progress.

Coventry and Warwickshire have worked with local banks to unlock finance for start-ups.

Tees Valley Unlimited are working with the UK’s Trade and Investment service to draw in foreign investment.

Places with Enterprise Zones, from Harlow to Hull, are getting on with the necessary to make them a success.

Manchester, for example, have unveiled their detailed plans for Airport City, with the potential to create twenty thousand new jobs, and dozens of firms are already keen to move in.

So on the one hand there’s a huge amount going on.

But on the other there’s absolutely no room for complacency – especially when we can all feel the chill winds blowing from the Continent.

So use today to galvanise your approach.

Some people have said, “we’d love to do our bit but we’d really like some more instruction.”

It’s a play: Waiting for Guidance.

But the best aren’t hanging around.

Look at the West of England.

They’ve not only secured an Enterprise Zone…

They’re also setting up “Enterprise Areas” too, with similar, straightforward planning rules, the better to attract new firms.

They didn’t wait to be told. They thought, “what can we do?” and they did it.

Some have said, “there’s money coming in but it’s going to our neighbours, or the upper tier, or the lower tier.”

Well then – cut a deal.

If you’re going to make the most of localism, you can’t waste time bickering.

The best will join forces.

Some will consider pooling their business rate incomes under the new system…

…sharing the risks and rewards, and helping everyone plan ahead.

If you’re not quite there yet – if you know in your heart of hearts that’s more you could be doing…

Really use today.

Look at your contemporaries in the room.

Learn from each other.

Challenge each other.

If there are people here you don’t know yet – get stuck in.

Who knows if that stranger isn’t the person who can make the links between your universities and business, between your exporters and new markets, between your entrepreneurs and lenders.

Above all, there is no point clinging to the old levers and approaches.

The world has changed.

Nobody’s going to try and force a solution on you.

Nobody’s going to stop you pursuing your own.

Be creative, be ambitious. Do what it takes to create the conditions for your economy to grow.

What it Means

I want to end by thinking about what’s at stake here.

Not too far from my constituency is the Ford plant at Dagenham.

As British engineering faltered towards the end of the last century, it became a symbol of decline.

Of glories past.

The kind of place that motorists snatch in glimpses as they hurtle past on the A13.

Now of course there are still challenges for British automotive industry.

But believe me, it’s on the way back.

In the year to last October…despite the tough conditions…despite the uncertainty in the markets…this country increased exports of vehicles by nearly twenty per cent.

Who’d have dreamt that ten years ago.

Dagenham, meanwhile, now produces a million engines each year, and employs four thousand people.

Creating the conditions for growth is about turning places like Dagenham from symbols of decline, to symbols of hope.

It’s about making space for new industries that give places a sense of purpose.

And about giving the people who look to you a reason to feel proud.

It goes back to why you’re here today.

I doubt very much that anyone gets into public affairs purely for the love of a beautiful spreadsheet, a snappy minute or a well-chaired committee.

We do it because we want to make change happen.

Today, you’ve got a golden opportunity to be the people who create growth, support jobs, underpin the prosperity and quality of life of the communities you work in.

It’s up to you to make the most of it.

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech at Naz Legacy Foundation


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, to the Naz Legacy Foundation annual reception held in the Churchill Dining Room of the House of Commons, in London, on 30th April 2014.

This very sad week we have thought a lot about teachers and their dedication to our country, given the tragic news of Anne Maguire.

I think Naz knew that classrooms are a place to bring people of different backgrounds together and pursue common goals.

This is the messages that the foundation established in his name and continues to promote today.

Being a kind citizen, a helping hand, or a friendly face shouldn’t just fall to the Naz’s of this world, but to each of us who care about our community.

As a government, we cannot force cohesion, or compel people to spend time together.

But as Naz did, and what we can all do, is create the right conditions to break down barriers and encourage communities to come together.

A particular focus for me has been encouraging faith communities to work together, rather than concentrating on their own communities.

Together in Service has not only funded some great projects, but I think it has sent out the right kind of message.

We achieve more by working together than by doing things separately, and we are offering small grants to ramp up their impact and create closer ties.

The Near Neighbours scheme is all about building relationships across faith boundaries, and it has seen a fantastic response. Almost everyone taking part has said that they feel more connected to their community.

As supporters of Mosaic, the Naz Legacy Foundation are enabling youngsters across the country to find inspiration in enterprise. To discover, and achieve their true potential, no matter what their background.

It’s great to hear the Foundation’s next project, the Diversity Programme, to introduce culture and arts to kids who may not otherwise have the chance or that experience.

This is something Naz did for children in his own classroom, and now thousands of others will benefit from this too.

It can be daunting to take on a role in communities. You might not know where to start.

But by opening up a discussion about the sort of communities we want to live in, or simply by encouraging folk just to come together, we are helping to reduce that fear of taking on a new role in society.

Of course, we have great role models in the Naz Legacy Foundation, enablers of education, mentoring, and training. You take the memory of a great man and remind us of the lengths we should all go to to make our communities thrive.

I am delighted this evening that the Prime Minister has asked me to present a Big Society Award.

This is in recognition of the Foundation’s hard work, to inspire young people to strive for excellence, and to play a full part in their community.

It is well deserved, and it is my pleasure to present it.

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech at Baha’i Faith Festival


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, at the Baha’i Faith Festival Celebration held at the House of Commons on 30th April 2014.

I am an enormous admirer of the Baha’i faith.

All faiths in this country put a lot back into their communitiy, but none more so than Baha’i.

In terms of looking out for the vulnerable, in terms of wanting to make friends with people of different faiths, there is always a Baha’i in the mix.

What we all have in common is our basic humanity which binds us. It is this commonality, this ‘oneness’ of the human race, that inspires the Baha’i faith.

Whilst the Baha’i religion is relatively young, your message of harmony and unity ripples down through the ages.

It creates an opportunity for all, rejecting all forms of prejudice, and bringing all faiths together to celebrate what we have in common, rather than focusing on our differences.

These are the qualities we strive to promote in the UK, and luckily for us, there are over 10,000 members of the Baha’i faith in this country, each with the same message of optimism and hope.

Whilst you may not be huge in number, you have an enormous impact. You threw yourselves behind projects like A Year of Service, got yourselves involved in the Big Iftar, and continue to be a shining presence in inter-faith projects around the country.

Your knack of reaching out to people of all faiths, and frankly, those of no faith, and promoting ‘one-ness’ is very inspiring, and a little humbling.

This one-ness in the human race, the one-ness of religion – through your Divine Plan, I know will continue to inspire and motivate young people, and ensure the Baha’i Faith will go from strength to strength, continuing to bring people together here and around the world.

As you celebrate this day of divine felicity, I want to say thank you for making the UK a more tolerant, a more cohesive, and a more cheerful place. I want to wish you all a very happy Rizwan!

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech on Rwanda


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, in Birmingham on 12th April 2014.

For many, 1994 was a year of progress and inspiration.

The world saw the final end of apartheid, with the election of Nelson Mandela.

Here at home we saw the opening of the Euro-Tunnel, so it would take only around two hours to get from London to Paris. Israel and Jordan ended a 40 year war – and the IRA formally announced they would cease their military operations.

However, a modern world does not necessarily mean a humane one.

As we celebrated hope, others experienced hatred, and none as dreadful as the genocide experienced by Rwandans. To all those Tutsi’s who died and moderate Hutu’s who died, this month in 1994 marked the beginning of 100 days of hell.

100 days of rape, of torture, and of murder. 100 days which took nearly a million lives.

For those who bore witness to Rwanda’s genocide, it was a time that humanity seemed to forget. And as we saw at Kigali’s official commemoration last week, 20 years doesn’t seem so long ago. I am sure that there are memories here in this room today that have been replayed time and time again, as though they were yesterday.

As quickly as day turned to night, wives became widows, and children became orphans. Leaving three quarters of the Tutsi population eliminated, and a nation with a great gaping hole at the centre of it .

So how could this country reconcile to such a loss?

Well we first need to remember.

It is not just the first step to honouring survivors, and the memory of their families, but it is how we ensure that we retain constant vigilance.

My colleague Andrew Mitchell talked about this never happening again, and we know that something like this in some part of the world can happen again.

It requires constant vigilance, it requires prompt action at the first sign of hatred. We have a tradition in the UK of remembrance. We have remembered the Jewish people lost to the Holocaust, the Cambodians that died in the Killing Fields, and we have a duty to remember our Rwandan friends.

Amongst so many experiences of loss and violence, there are always examples of true heroism, tales that are important to tell in the face of such malice.

Stories like that of Senagalese peacekeeper Mbaye Diagne. It was his sense of humour that got him through so many road blocks, and with him hundreds of Tutsi’s stowed in trucks, who would have otherwise been killed,

Mbaye was a good man within a sea of evil. When he lost his life, a small candle, a small flickering light against the darkness went out.

Today we remember all he did for Rwandans.

Or Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian commander and now a member of the Canadian Senate. He was one of the first to warn of the trouble brewing. He urged action. But his words fell on deaf ears.

Despite this, Romeo spoke up after the genocide, and went on to set up both a foundation in Rwanda and the Child Soldiers Initiative.

Today we also remember what Romeo did for Rwandans. And we echo his comments of worry.

These are just two examples, of how the spirit of one person can overcome a world of inaction.

I have often heard survivors of the genocide call themselves the ‘unlucky ones.’ Because they have been left to face a seemingly dark and bleak future. But it is in these times that we must remember that whilst world governments slept, individuals shone through.

Our collective responsibility shapes a new future of telling these stories. Looking past the statistics, which can be so overwhelming, and recalling the stories of survival and determination of the need to carry on.

We remind ourselves of the other side of humanity, the selfless and determined characteristics, that shape the Rwanda we see today.

It is a country to be immensely proud of. Rwanda has the highest number of female parliamentarians of anywhere in the world. Girls are given the same access to education as boys. Less Rwandans are going hungry, more are finding work, and the economic fortune of the country continues to improve.

Rwanda has a future.

It is a future that perpetrators of the genocide could not imagine.

But changing does not mean forgetting.

1994 was not that long ago. The twenty-first century was on the horizon, and we looked towards it expectantly. The era of genocides and mass-killing seemed a distant memory. But for as long as people are judged by the colour of their skin, the religion they worship, or the roots of their ethnicity, our achievements will forever be dwarfed by the callousness of mankind.

Sparks of intolerance can only exist, at the will of our own complacency. And no matter how many years pass – one, twenty, or two hundred, we owe it to Rwanda, and all victims of genocide – to remain vigilant, and to always remember the sacrifice you never deserved to make.

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech on Holocaust Memorial Day


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, on Holocaust Memorial Day on 28th January 2014.


So far this afternoon, we have heard about journeys punctuated with suffering, with immeasurable loss, and with the scars which still bear their memory.

Journeys to a new life are by no means easier – but nonetheless I hope they have brought some healing, and the chance of a new start.

This year is particularly poignant. 75 years have just passed since Kristallnacht – and as we have just heard, 20 years have passed since the start of the Rwandan genocide.

Time does not stand still to allow us to remember. And as time passes, persecution and hatred remain a threat. Which is why our vigilance can never rest.

As Josef Stalin said,

“A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths are just a statistic.”

This is once day dedicated to remembrance reminds us of the people and the stories – not the statistics.

The walls of the gas chambers cannot talk – and the grass of the killing fields have no voice.

Human experience is the best memory.

Your resilience allowed you to journey on; not to forget, but to rebuild your lives again.

Journey’s like Ben Helf-gott’s (Helfgott), who went on to captain the British weightlifting team in the Melbourne and Rome Olympics (1956 and 1960).

Or like Anita Lak-sar Wall-fish’s (Lakser-Wallfisch) – who believes her talent as a cellist saved her from a certain death. She went from the discomfort of playing for SS officers – to co-founding the English Chamber Orchestra.

Or a journey like Kitty Hart Moxon’s – who endured 2 years of concentration camp life and survived the death marches. She trained to become a nurse in Britain. Despite all she had been through – Kitty retained her humanity to care for others, and tend to the sick.

Their new lives couldn’t erase the past, but decades after the Third Reich, they have been victorious over the Nazis, and they are incredible achievements in the face of adversity.

‘Seeing is believing’

And visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau with the Education Trust is one of the most powerful ways of doing so.

The Trust also brings survivors into schools, to share their testimony – and now it is falling to their children pick up the baton and ensure their legacy never fades.

Incredibly, David Herman, survived 5 separate concentration camps – an experience that his daughter Julia Burton now retells in schools. Making sure her father’s story, and the words of a Grandmother she never met, is never forgotten.

Alongside the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Education Trust – there are many other ways we combat anti-semitic, anti-muslim, and other hate crimes.

The Anne Frank Trust uses her moving diary to educate others.

Show Racism the Red Card has got top footballers behind it.

And Tell MAMA brings unacceptable Muslim attacks to light.

Their vigilant work stops the cracks of intolerance forming in today’s society.

Reminding people of why the holocaust happened – is something our Prime Minister truly believes in.

In September, David Cameron announced the formation of the Holocaust commission.

The commission will consider the best way to commemorate the holocaust for future generations.

The road back to Auschwitz is taken by steps. Small acts of intolerance can be very powerful. That is why we must always be vigilant.

We are lucky enough to live in a largely tolerant society. But only a thin veneer separates us from committing such betrayals. Like the anti-semitic salute by a footballer.

We only need to look at recent atrocities in the Central African Republic to see – that one spark of intolerance quickly spreads to an untameable fire.

Our neighbours, friends and school teachers can quickly become our enemies.

Like Kemal Pervanitch’s teacher – someone who he considered a role model – quickly became his torturer.

Kemal has poignantly said before,

“I was a victim. Then I was a survivor. But all I wanted to be was a human being again.”

In spite of the circumstances – those who have rebuilt their lives here have made this country a richer place, A more tolerant place, You make it the great country we are all proud of.

I’d like to end with a quote. One which I think captures our responsibility –

In Joel 1:3, he prophesises –

“Tell it to your children, And let your children tell it to their children, And their children to the next generation.”

Pledging to keep doing just that is what we all must do.

We must continue to remember.

Eric Pickles – 2013 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, on 30th September 2013.


It is always a delight to be working with our yellow chums inside Whitehall, but it’s great to be back at a Conservative Party conference.

Conservatives share common beliefs – a smaller state, lower taxes, trusting the people and championing hardworking families.

After three years in government, it is easy to forget the toxic legacy that Labour left behind.

They mortgaged away our future.

Labour allowed the benefits bill to double, creating a something-for-nothing culture.

We have been cleaning up Labour’s mess ever since.

But imagine if the last three years had not happened, and David Cameron had not walked through the doors of Downing Street.

Imagine a parallel universe of a Lib-Lab Government clinging to power today.

Labour would have quickly lost the confidence of the markets for failing to tackle the deficit.

Mortgage rates would have soared, and after that, taxes too.

The Chancellor, Ed Balls, would be extending his so-called “mansion tax” to ordinary family homes.

Hitting your garden, your patio and your home improvements with soaring council tax.

The Business Secretary – Unite’s Baron McCluskey of Mersey Docks – would be abolishing Margaret Thatcher’s trade union reforms and turning the clock back to the 1970s.

The Deputy Prime Minister, the ever-cheerful Vince Cable, would still be urging an economic Plan B.

The Equalities Minister, Harriet Harman would be making welfare benefits a Human Right, assisted by her new human rights czar from the Brazilian Workers Party.

And the Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, the newly-elevated  Lord Huhne of Wormwood Scrubs, would be championing that great Liberal Democrat cause:

Votes for prisoners!

And in the dark, over-cast offices of Downing Street, candles would flicker during the 3-day-week electricity blackout

The walls battle-scarred by the years of flying Nokias and smashed keyboards

A dour Scotsman would be quietly cursing Tony Blair for his legacy of boom and bust.

To his left, Damian McBride, his spin doctor, whispering sweet poisons into his ear.

To his far left, Ed Miliband, his policy wonk, urging higher taxes, price controls and land grabs.

In reality, Gordon may be absent. But they are the same old Labour Party.

A vote for Labour still means:

– More spending

– More borrowing

– More debt

– More taxes

– And a return to the culture of spin.

I don’t know if you’ve been reading the McBride memoirs.

It’s twenty quid for a signed copy. The unsigned ones are even more expensive

So let me give you the condensed version.

Yes – there is a Nasty Party.

And it’s called the Labour Party!

At the next election, there will be a clear choice.

Between a modern Conservative Party or back to the future with Red Ed.

Look at the records of both parties.

Under the Labour Government, council tax more than doubled.

We have worked with councils to freeze it, cutting bills in real terms.

Under Labour, house building fell to the lowest rate since the 1920s.

Under Conservatives, house building and first time buyers are back at their highest rate since Labour’s crash, thanks to schemes like Help to Buy.

The economy is turning the corner.

We have built over one-hundred-and-fifty thousand new affordable homes since the election, with more to come.

And we are supporting new family-friendly tenancies in the private rented sector.

Labour build nothing but resentment.

Take Ed Miliband’s latest plan? To confiscate private land and build over the Green Belt.

Resurrected eco towns: the zombie policy that will not die.

It’s the same old Labour.

Hardworking people are still paying the price for Labour.

John Prescott told councils to hike up parking charges, cut the number of parking spaces and use parking fines to punish motorists.

It’s no wonder that nine million parking fines are now issued every year.

Shoppers drive to out-of-town superstores or just shop online, rather than face the high street.

So we will make it easier for hardworking people to pop into the local shop to buy a newspaper or a pint of milk.

We will empower local residents to challenge the excessive yellow lines and unreasonable fines.

We will switch off the parking ‘cash cameras’ and spy cars.

We are helping families with the cost of living, and supporting local shops.

But it’s not only Labour that wastes taxpayers’ money and interferes in people’s lives.

Increasingly the EU interferes in local communities.

Take the EU programme, INTERREG. You have probably never heard of it.

It replaces our national boundaries with pan-European regions.

Such as the “TransManche” –merging the southern counties of England with the north of France.

Last week, at a road show at the Jules Verne Circus in France, the Eurocrats celebrated this region.

Over a hundred million pounds of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on vanity projects.

And what gifts the new citizens of TransManche have received.

A new Atlas, renaming the English Channel. It’s now called “Le Pond”.

“Franco-British master-classes” in circus training.

Giant puppets and cross-border contemporary dance.

And to top the lot, a bold piece of 21st Century transport infrastructure.

The Cross-Channel Cycle Lane.

I struggle to see how Labour Ministers ever thought this was a good idea.

Mind you, Tony Blair did think he could walk on water.

These Euro projects are a symptom of a wider problem.

In quangos and town halls across the land, public sector bureaucrats think ‘Euro funding’ is somehow ‘free money’.

It’s not.

Every cent of EU grant we get back was British taxpayers’ money in the first place.

But there are strings attached.

To get the money, grant recipients must praise the European Union.

If they don’t, they are punished with fines.

Even in this great city of Manchester, a grave injustice has been committed.

Down the road is the People’s History Museum.

The home of the Labour Party Archives,

Containing papers from Kier Hardie, and a Frederick Pickles from Bradford – one of the earliest members of the Labour Party a century ago.

Labour’s Museum took the EU cash, but failed to fly the EU flag.

The punishment?

A seven thousand pound fine.

An outrage. But not a peep from the Labour Party.

Where was Peter Mandelson when Labour needed him?

But now the Commission wants to go further.

Using Lisbon Treaty powers, it wants councils to stamp the EU flag on birth, marriage and death certificates.

It’s optional say the Commission.

We’ve heard that one before. Just look at the EU flag on your driving licence.

Will branding Britons from cradle to grave with EU flags drive economic growth?


Will fining local community groups help balance the EU budget?


Will barmy cycle lanes and the EU’s flying circus make us love Brussels more?


Brussels says it needs ‘more Europe’ to save the Euro.

As Ronald Reagan might have said …

More EU government is not the solution to our problems.

The EU is the problem.

As David Cameron has said, it’s time to return powers to Britain and to let the people decide.

Like Labour, the EU doesn’t care about wasting taxpayers’ money.

But this Government has led from the front in the war on waste.

In my department, we’ve cut our administration by a cool FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO MILLION POUNDS, from savings big and small.

Our corporate credit card spending fell by three-quarters after we published every transaction online.

We’ve cut back the consultants, the temps, the marketing budget.

We’ve stopped translating documents into foreign languages.

And shortly, to save NINE MILLION POUNDS A YEAR, my whole department is going to bunk in with Theresa at the Home Office.

Conservative councils have also led the way in producing quality services at a much lower price.

Sharing back-offices, better procurement and more joint working.

But Labour councils continue to burn money – from their union pilgrims to their Town Hall Pravdas.

Their councils make lazy choices – a “bleeding stump” strategy of axing the frontline, all so they can wave the red flag.

Let one Labour authority speak for them all – Newham.

This council, in one of the most deprived parts of our capital, has spent over one-hundred million pounds on a luxury headquarters, including thousands on designer light fittings.

Three years on, it’s moving back to its old building. All that money wasted.

By an historic accident, the council’s housing arm – Newham Homes – has houses in my constituency in Essex.

Former Right to Buy tenants who bought their own home are being hit with leasehold repair charges of up to fifty thousand pounds.

The local Conservative council charges a tenth of that for the same sort of maintenance.

That’s where I met Florence Bourne.

Florrie was a woman in her nineties, full of energy, full of fun and full of the joy of life that belied her years.

She was proud to have brought up a happy family.

When Mrs Thatcher gave her a chance she bought her own 2 bedroom flat over the top of the local parade of shops,

Then Newham gave her a fifty thousand pound bill.

A crushing sum for a proud woman who had never been in debt before.

Right across the estate former tenants were billed for work that was not done, work that was poorly done, work that was overpriced.

Most shocking of all work that was not necessary, including a replacement roof she didn’t need.

We went to the Valuation Tribunal, and eventually they over-turned the bill.

But too late for Florrie.

The last time I saw her she looked every one of her ninety-three years, weighed down by the drilling, the banging, the dust, the mess, but above all the debt and the worry.

She died a couple of weeks later still believing she owed fifty thousand pounds.

Ninety-three is a good age, but I’m convinced she had a few more good years in her and I blame Newham for its lack of care.

Newham: A council more concerned about the roof over its head rather than the roof over an elderly woman.

This case highlights the scandal of leaseholders being ripped off by inefficient municipal landlords who kick those who took up the Right to Buy.

We need to increase protection for former Right to Buy leaseholders like Florrie.

But this story shows the true face of Labour when in power, locally and nationally.

In May’s local elections, don’t let Labour do to your council what they did to our country


Conservatives will always be on the side of those who work hard and do the right thing.

We trust the people.

We believe in a smaller state.

We stand up for the ordinary guy in the face of state bureaucracy.

And we believe in cutting taxes and charges, helping hardworking people with the cost of living.

We promised change.

We’ve delivered change.

Conservative change for the better.