Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

In a Pickle over Government Cuts; He Is the Most Controversial Man in Local Government, Slashing Tens of Millions of Pounds from Every North East Council. Political Reporter ADRIAN PEARSON Finds out What Eric Pickles Thinks of His Critics

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

In a Pickle over Government Cuts; He Is the Most Controversial Man in Local Government, Slashing Tens of Millions of Pounds from Every North East Council. Political Reporter ADRIAN PEARSON Finds out What Eric Pickles Thinks of His Critics

Article excerpt

Byline: ADRIAN PEARSON

IF YOU'VE lost use of a library, seen your bin collections reduced or even lost your council job, Eric Pickles is the man responsible.

The Communities Secretary has told Newcastle he had no choice but to slash hundreds of millions of pounds from council budgets in order to carry out the coalition Government's deficit reduction plans.

Mr Pickles spent the day in Tyneside seeing for himself the way councils are coping with the cuts, but never once did he back down from his belief that there was no choice but to slash spending.

Speaking before business and council leaders at a dinner at the Centre for Life in Newcastle, Mr Pickles insisted he had acted to make sure that the North East was protected from the worst of the cuts.# This claim has been fiercely disputed by almost all Tyneside's council chiefs.

Mr Pickles said: "A year ago, this Government came to office in the wake of the worst recession since the Second World War.

"Our overriding priority is to restore the economy.

"From the start we made clear our intentions - to rein in public spending, cut the deficit, and get a grip on the national debt."

Mr Pickles played down suggestions he was one of the most divisive figures in the coalition Government, especially in local government circles.

He said: "I am entirely neutral in my relationship with local government. I may get the odd bit tetchy around local election time but I do work hard with councils."

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said that there was so far little sign that Tyneside would be able to work with Mr Pickles.

He said: "I'm going to try my hardest to make sure that Newcastle and the North East have a great working relationship with the Government, but that will require them to listen to what we have to say.

"So far there is little to suggest that Mr Pickles and his colleagues have heard our concerns about the pace and scale of the cuts. …

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