Cuts Watch #185: Lobbying by Public Bodies
Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has announced plans to update the Local Authority Publicity Code to prevent local authorities from hiring lobbyists. Non-Departmental Public Bodies (‘quangos’) sponsored by DCLG have been instructed to cancel their contracts with lobbying firms, a decision that will affect the Audit Commission, Ordnance Survey and the Tenants Services Authority.
Mr Pickles said:
“Local activism and localism don’t need lobbyists. If local politicians want to change the way government operates, their council should send a letter or pick up the phone. Councillors can campaign for change at a personal or party political level, rather than throwing away other people’s council tax on the corrosive and wasteful practice of government lobbying government. Tough new rules will lower the cost of politics and increase transparency.”
He also issued a list of Councils and public bodies that have contracts with lobbying consultants that has been published by the Local Government Chronicle. The Local Government Association has responded that local authorities need help from consultancies to “navigate their way through the bureaucratic maze of Whitehall to get things done. Local authorities only use public affairs agencies to win government support for major projects that are of vital importance to their residents.”
In February, the Audit Commission was accused of paying Connect Public Affairs £60,000 to “combat the activities” of Mr. Pickles when, as Conservative Party Chairman, he announced plans to abolish the Comprehensive Area Assessment. (The Commission claimed that Connect was only hired to “provide analysis of parliamentary business and public affairs.”)