Thomas Bridge 11 May 2015

Pickles: Still ‘awful lot’ of money to be saved in councils

Eric Pickles has said there is still an ‘awful lot’ of money to be saved in local government that would not impact on frontline services.

The former communities secretary, who claims to be ‘waiting by my phone’ for confirmation on his new cabinet role, has said he is ‘sure’ the new Conservative majority government could shield services from further town hall cut backs.

It is expected that Pickles will hold on to his secretary of state role at the Department for Communities and Local Government, with confirmation due to come later this afternoon.

His five years in the position has seen town hall funding shrink by around 40%, the Local Government Association claims, alongside introduction of controversial caps on council tax rises.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Pickles said that he was told the cuts to local government would ‘end after the first year’ of the last parliament but indicated the efficiency drive would not stop any time soon.

‘What we certainly found is that it’s not just about cutting. It’s also about efficiencies and working together,’ he said.

‘We certainly know there’s an awful lot of money to be still saved. I’m quite confident we’ll be able to protect frontline services. That’s what we did last time and I’m sure that’s what we’ll do this time.’

He added that ‘speculation will be over pretty soon’ on where the £12bn of welfare cuts would be targeted with ‘everything on the table’ in the upcoming Queen’s Speech.

It is known that some £2bn of this will come from freezing in work benefits for a period of at least two years.

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