Thursday, 8 July 2010

Pickles follows Sarkozy down the drain

It certainly seems that Eric Pickles, our new Local Government Secretary, is making his voice heard in the corridors of local councils up and down the country. Apparently, barely a day goes by without another missive coming out of the Department of Communities and Local Government (the DCLG) ordering a cut to something or urging a ‘hurry up’ with something else. Last week it was Council newsletters which were branded ‘like Pravda’, the old Communist Party newspaper in Russia. This week it is council job advertisements which now have to be carried online to cut newspaper advertising costs.

Reassuringly however, it is not only in the UK where national politicians feel free to meddle in local issues. Whilst on holiday in France last month I heard a wonderful story which proves that even the most powerful cannot resist getting involved in areas which should be beneath them.

Apparently, in Southern France at the moment there is much debate in various rural towns, villages and communes about the merits of converting local communities from septic tank drainage to the municipal drainage system. The cost is quite steep and many towns and villages do not want to make the switch due, in large part, to the fact that individual households have to make a contribution of their own.

In one such region, the Var on the borders of Italy, many homeowners have refused to convert which has infuriated the local Bruni-Tedeschi family who are apparently positively desperate to get rid of their ‘fosse septique’ (close observers of French politics or the European music scene will probably be able to work out where this is going!).

Anyway, in order to try and find some sort of consensus the local Prefect, Jacques Laisné, convened a town meeting only to find himself being harangued by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who accompanied his wife, former model and current singer, Carla Bruni, and his in-laws, the previously mentioned Bruni-Tedeschi family, to the meeting. The President’s message was fairly simple, along the lines of “get it sorted”.

Hasn't the President of France anything better to do than get involved in local sewage issues, like sorting out the traffic on the periphique for example? It seems not.

Alas, it appears that the new drainage was not installed in time for the President’s next holiday and the unfortunate Mr Laisné has been relieved of his duties. A sobering lesson for all Council leaders who attempt to ignore Mr Pickles.


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