The Telegraph has been given the minutes of a meeting between the Liberal Democrat's favourite minister, Eric Pickles and senior members of the Local Government Association, at which it has been reported that the leader of Liberal Democrat councillors and leader of Portsmouth City Council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson asked:
“Local authorities should have greater discretion over Council Tax exemptions and discounts, such as the student exemption”.Students on a full-time college or university course are currently exempt from this.
Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Democrats have panicked and gone into full-on damage limitation mode, with a complaint winging its way to the Press Complaints Commission and a statement that these minutes are not an accurate representation of a wider policy discussion.
Meanwhile, Cllr Vernon-Jackson has written - along with his local LibDem MP, the fragrant Mike Hancock, to Nick Clegg, asking that the NHS Bill be dropped.
Quite reasonable, you might think. Except that Hancock seems to be coming a bit late to this party, as he has never found the NHS Bill sufficiently important to bother voting on it (either for or against), although he did find time in his busy schedule to vote on the Hairdressers Regulation Bill. (He did manage to vote in favour of the release of the NHS Risk Register, unlike John Hemming, the great defender of open government, so that's one strike in his favour). Mike should also have been aware of the details of the bill, as he was part of the committee that carried out the line by line scrutiny of it - or perhaps he was pre-occupied during that as well.
It would be tremendously cynical of me to suggest that this new-found passion for dropping the bill is anything to do with a forecast of another beating for the Liberal Democrats in the forthcoming council elections across the country.