Complete transparency about anything Eric Pickles can think of that will grab a headline is the order of the day for local government. His latest wheeze is that any local government official earning more than £58,200 is to be named, individually, on-line.
Pickles apparently stated that: ‘The taxpayer has the right to look under the bonnet of their town hall and see what decisions are being made on their behalf and where their money is being spent.”
Meanwhile Whitehall’s bonnet remains firmly shut when it comes to so-called “free” schools. According to this morning’s Today programme revealed that £50m of capital spending was being dished out to these pet projects of Mr Pickles friend Mr Gove, including in one case £15m to a single new school. But, and here’s the interesting bit of hypocrisy, the Department for education is refusing to reveal detail of who’s getting what.
So ‘localism’ consist of telling local government what to publish about individual members of staff’s salaries, regardless of what the locally elected representatives want to do, or not. It also consist of dishing out large amounts of public funds to create “local” schools regardless of what the locals actually want.
And ‘transparency’ consists of doing what I say, not what I do.
Now, to be fair, most governments – especially British governments and especially Whitehall – have a long and dishonourable tradition of this sort of hypocrisy. But I thought we’d been promised a ‘new politics’?