ERIC Pickles is on a mission to undermine local councils after being rejected by Bradford voters more than two decades ago, it was claimed yesterday.
The new head of the Local Government Association tore into the Local Government Secretary – and former Bradford council leader – over savage town hall cuts.
David Sparks said Mr Pickles was the first Cabinet minister in the post, of any party, to fail to support councils, in his Thatcherite drive to create a “small state”.
And he said: “He was rejected by the people of Bradford - and I think that has, quite frankly, had a big impact on him.”
Mr Sparks, Dudley’s leader, also argued that Mr Pickles’ claims to have handed down more powers to councils were “deceptive”, because of £10bn of funding cuts.
He added: “I was involved in local government when Eric Pickles was leader of Bradford.
“He had a lot more power when he was leader of Bradford than the current leader of Bradford has got after four years of Eric Pickles as secretary of state.
“If you haven't got the resources to enable you to use those powers, then those powers are of marginal importance.”
Mr Pickles declined to respond to the comments yesterday, which were made in an interview with Total Politics magazine.
The controversial 62-year-old, born in Keighley, was Conservative leader of Bradford Council for two years in the late 1980s.
A Tory trailblazer, Mr Pickles announced a five-year plan to cut the council's budget by £50m, reduce the workforce by a third and privatise many services.
But the Conservatives lost control to Labour in 1990. Mr Pickles resigned as party leader a year later and launched his Westminster career, as an MP in Essex.
Councillor David Green, Bradford’s current Labour leader, is among local authority leaders urging the Government – and the Labour opposition – to make “localism” a reality.
Yesterday, he warned that a Labour proposal to tackle a social care crisis by pooling health and care budgets was unlikely to work without a big cash injection.
However, Mr Pickles shows no sign of loosening the purse strings, having announced a further £40m of grant cuts to Bradford between 2014 and 2016.
In the same magazine, the Local Government Secretary defended curbs on council tax which outlaw increases of more than two per cent, unless a local referendum is staged and won.
And he recently threatened to change the law to force town halls to bring back weekly bin collections – after many spurned the offer of cash to do so.