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Eric Pickles: Trust the people, and they will trust you

Addressing the Party Conference, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles said:

"I pay tribute to Lord Heseltine, returning to the scene of some of his finest moments. His conference speeches inspired our Party and our country.

"I think we are all eager to see the final report from Michael's Task Force - and even more eager to begin the work of rebuilding and reclaiming the towns and cities that have been allowed to spiral downwards under this government.

"The Conservative Party has been fortunate to have the advice not only of Michael but also of other policy commissions; competitiveness, quality of life and Iain Duncan Smith's Breakdown Britain.

"They have produced many ideas that we will adopt into our manifesto.

SUPERMARKET TAX

"But let me make one thing, and I say this as someone who was brought up in a small corner shop, and is proud to be a member of a Party once led by a shopkeeper's daughter -

"There is no way a Conservative government would tax a family's weekly shopping bill by imposing a charge on supermarket car parks.

NEW LABOUR SPEAK

"Now I spend a large chunk of my life listening to Labour Ministers drone on aimlessly. It has been a few weeks since I last heard them on mass and I have to admit I was beginning to miss them. So I tuned in to Bournemouth.

"I was not disappointed

"What has always fascinated me about New Labour Speak is its knack of saying one thing that means exactly the opposite

"Let me give you a few examples so that you too can enjoy New Labour Speak.

"Our first word is "consultation"

"In New Labour speak this does not mean "here are our proposals what do you think?" No it really means "this is what we are going to do and anyone who disagrees is a scaremonger

"Localism", in New Labour Speak means "Central control delivered through Regional Quangos

"Now let's try a phrase "freedom to local Councils"

"As any councillor in the audience will tell you what this actually means is "Jump when we tell you - we will leave it up to you to decide how high"

"The final and newest addition to the Labour lexicon comes from Gordon Brown himself.

"When he pledges to "robustly protect the Green Belt", what he it is actually saying is "Please don't stand in front of the Bulldozer - we have concrete to lay."

BLUNT YORKSHIREMAN

"I used to be a blunt Yorkshireman

but now I am an Essex Boy.

"There is one thing that unites these two great counties they like people who mean what they say.

"So let me tell you something straight-

"The long term success of the next Conservative government depends on giving people more opportunity and power over their lives.

"We are passionate about of transferring power to local authorities and to do it in a way that will make it difficult for central government to ever take those powers back.

"Councils will help us to dismantle the centrist state distributing its power to the people. Once that power is in their hands it will be impossible to take away.

"We have optimism and trust in our councils.

"We live in a new world where the destructive fringe that existed within some local authorities in the 1980s has long gone.

"Conservatives will match this mood by giving ALL Councils greater flexibility both in finance and functions. We are sure that you can trust our Councils with funding without stipulating the way every single penny must be spent.

"We intend to reform local government from within, no more silly tinkering with structure. That means enabling councils to work closer together cross authority, city, county and regional boundaries.

"We will look at ways of making the distribution of government grant fairer, and remove forever the temptations for politicians to favour their mates.

"Under a Conservative Government, councils will have greater flexibility - we will end the ring-fencing of councils' grants.

"To do this you need to have a deep trust that communities will set sensible priorities and govern themselves well, and if they don't that the electorate will have the good sense to kick them out.

REMOVE LABOUR STRUCTURES

"But in order to do that we have to remove all of Labours structures of control and resist the twin temptations of tinkering or replacing them with our own.

"These controls have stifled the best of local government innovation and local solutions to local problems.

"Hazel Blears told us last week that she wanted "greater local accountability".

"Tell that to the pensioners on fixed income that have seen their Council tax double as a result of this government imposing unfunded burdens on local Councils.

HOUSING PLEDGE

"Tell that to the communities who standby helplessly watching John Prescott's master plan to destroying Victorian terraces in the North and bulldozing the South, - creating the sink estates of tomorrow without the services, amenities or infrastructure to cope with the influx.

"And tell that to the families struggling to find a home, because Government imposed restrictions have made it difficult to build family homes.

"Labour's national planning rules have created a surplus of pokey flats and a shortage of homes with parking spaces and gardens. Surely, communities are the best position to decide the right mix.

"Under Gordon Brown, family homes are under threat. The heavy-handed state is demolishing or seizing homes across the country.

"State inspectors are preparing to enter dwellings to tax families who worked hard to improve their homes.

"Whether it's your conservatory, your bedroom or your rubbish bin - the Gordon Brown wants to tax it.

"It's time for change and for time to stand up for hard-working families.

"So today I make you this pledge.

"We will introduce a Family Homes Initiative, which will change the planning rules to allow the building of homes that meet the needs of our nation's families.

Again, let communities - not Whitehall - decide what and where to build.

"WE WILL protect England's gardens from Labour's concrete mixers.

"Conservatives recognise the importance of family homes in providing the bedrock of stable, safe and green communities. We will make it easier to get on and move up the home ladder.

"Buying a home is an aspiration for millions of people, but is becoming increasingly out of reach.

STAMP DUTY

"Gordon Brown has made houses less affordable with his stealth tax rises. Now over half of first time buyers pay stamp duty.

"Conservatives will abolish stamp duty for first time buyers purchasing homes up to £250,000. This will mean that nine out of ten first time buyers will pay no stamp duty.

"We will give local people more power to control their lives and make their neighbourhood a better place to live.

"Tomorrow Grant Shapps our Shadow Housing Minister will announce further plans to address the housing shortage.

"We will protect the pockets, property and privacy of Britain's families.

TLA

"In addition one of my first acts as Secretary of State will be to abolish "TLA's".

"For those of you who don't know, TLA stands for:

"Three Letter Abbreviations,

"That embarrassment of rules that have sprung up which nobody understands, nobody needs, and nobody is held to account.

"Regional Spatial Strategies

Regional Economic Strategies

Market Renewal Pathfinders

Comprehensive Performance Assessment

Comprehensive Area Assessment

"All will go, along with the mass of quangos

• from the Regional Cultural Consortiums,

• to the Regional Tobacco Control Managers,

• to the Regional Social Inclusion Partnerships.

"But my dear chums, it won't stop there.

"We will abolish the new Labour powers to seize the private homes of the recently deceased.

"Let's tackle the real scandal of public sector properties lying empty.

"We pledge to stop Labour's plans for new bin taxes on families, which threaten to cause a surge in fly-tipping and backyard burning of rubbish.

"We will scrap regional planning.

"Labour's centralised and regional planning, micro-managed targets and plethora of contradictory edicts that have snarled up the planning system - all will go.

"We will stop the regionalisation of the fire service, which threatens to undermine civil resilience - as the Fire Brigades Union has warned; Labour's regional empire building is playing politics with people's lives

"We will scrap Labour's stealth plans for a council tax revaluation.

"We will protect people's property and privacy

- abolishing the council tax inspectors' right of entry into our homes.

CLEAR CHOICE

"We offer the voters a clear choice:

"Conservative local democracy or Labour Whitehall control.

"In place of top down targets and five year plans (better suited to Ukrainian tractor factories of the 1950's), we will offer the right for local communities to set their own priorities

"In place of a "take what you're given and don't complain", we will offer choice and freedom to disagree

"In place of control freakery and spin, we will offer proper local democracy with local accountability and trust.

"We believe in giving people more opportunity and power over their lives.

"And making families stronger and society more responsible.

"Ours is a truly radical program for local government but one that is steeped deep in the Conservative tradition of public service, civic pride and community trust.

"A great Conservative once put it very simply,

"I repeat his words today:

"Trust the people, and they will trust you."

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