Magazine article Public Finance

Frontrunner for LGA Chair Sets out Stall

Magazine article Public Finance

Frontrunner for LGA Chair Sets out Stall

Article excerpt

Margaret Eaton, the frontrunner in the race to become the Local Government Associations new chair, will pick her battles with ministers, but has pledged to be 'aggressively forthright' if necessary.

Eaton, a Conservative councillor since 1986 and leader of City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council from 2000 until 2006, would replace Sir Simon Milton, who is stepping down following his appointment as a deputy to London Mayor Boris Johnson.

She is expected to see off four rivals for the Conservative nomination when the party's ballot closes on September 8. Confirmation that the winner will become the new LGA chair will be a formality.

Eaton is set to take over as councils wrestle with a particularly tough financial settlement She described squeezing money from central government as getting blood out of a stone'.

But she told Public Finance: 'It's not a matter of going with a begging bowl.' Instead, councils have 'got to say to the government: these are the things we do well, but these are things we're not going to be able to do' without sufficient funding.

Eaton said her tactics as LGA chair would depend on the circumstances. 'It's about winning an argument. There are times when you need to be aggressively forthright and other times when you need to be gently persuasive.' That means: 'Don't roll over and have your tummy tickled... but only go truly into battle on the ones you can win,' she told PF.

The relationship between central government and local authorities is 'bound to be a difficult one because obviously the government makes the rules', she noted, and the current Westminster regime 'has been very controlling'. …

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