Sajid Javid has reached out to local government defending his recent criticisms of the sector as tough love designed to help them ‘do better’.
The communities secretary’s speech to the Local Government Association (LGA) conference last week drew the ire of many after he said local government was facing a ‘looming crisis in confidence’.
Speaking in the wake of the controversy surrounding the response from Kensington & Chelsea council to the Grenfell disaster, Mr Javid criticised the sector on a number of issues, including housing inequalities and local plans.
However, at a summer reception yesterday hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Government, he appeared to wish to mend some fences.
‘I think it’s fair to say my speech at the LGA got a mixed reception from the local government family,’ Mr Javid said, with deliberate understatement.
Quoting a couple of his critics, the communities secretary acknowledged his LGA speech had gone down like a ‘bucket of cold sick’ or a ‘cat food lasagne’ (the latter, he noted, was his personal favourite).
He said that he loved what local government did for the country and that he was proud ‘to represent you, defend you, and speak for you at the Cabinet table.’
‘But good friends are honest and open with each other,’ he continued.
‘If I’m ever critical of the work being done by some local authorities, it’s only because I want to help you do better.’
He also added this level of honesty was ‘a two-way street’.
‘I’m not hiding away here in Westminster. My door is always open, my phone is always on. I want you to talk to me. I want you to tell me what you think.’
Mr Javid declared that central and local government had to ‘work together’.
‘The challenges we face – in housing, in social care, in community cohesion and so much more – are too great to tackle alone,’ he said.
‘Only through a strong, open, constructive relationship between local and central government can we make sure that councils are able to deliver the services everyone needs.’
Head of the LGA’s Labour group, Cllr Nick Forbes was reported in The MJ as saying it was a ‘shameful attempt to place the failings of one authority at the feet of the whole sector’.