ERIC Pickles has lost his job as Local Government Secretary in David Cameron’s reshuffle, a move welcomed by Southampton’s council leader.
The prime minister promoted Greg Clark to the Cabinet role, in an attempt to build bridges with council leaders bruised by repeated battles with Mr Pickles.
Unlike the outgoing Local Government Secretary, Mr Clark is openly passionate about devolution and boasts long experience of negotiating ‘City Deals’ with councils.
He is also on the left of the Conservative party, having once been a member of the SDP – in stark contrast to the Thatcherite Mr Pickles.
Simon Letts, Southampton’s Labour leader, said: “This is excellent news for local government.
“Greg Clark is a strong supporter of city regions like ours and an advocate for devolution of powers. I hope he delivers on these principles.”
However, Mr Clark now faces the challenge of pushing through further enormous cuts to local government spending, under George Osborne’s plans to wipe out the deficit in this parliament.
Under Mr Pickles, there were fierce protests that Southampton was among areas being hit the hardest, while those in Tory areas escaped the worst of the pain.
Furthermore, although Mr Clark is a devolution enthusiast, the Chancellor controls that agenda and is demanding that areas accept a cross-border ‘metro mayor’ in return.
The new Local Government Secretary is also a big supporter of elected mayors, once suggesting a grateful public would elect statues in their honour.
Elsewhere, most Cabinet big-hitters retained their jobs, including Iain Duncan Smith (Work and Pensions), Patrick McLoughlin (Transport), Jeremy Hunt (Health), Nicky Morgan (Education) and Liz Truss (Environment).
The most notable promotions were Amber Rudd (Energy and Climate Change), Sajid Javid (Business) and John Whittingdale (Culture, Media and Sport).
Boris Johnson has not been made a minister but will attend separate Tory “political cabinet” meetings, leaving him free to campaign against expansion of Heathrow Airport.
Eric Pickles said his “new role" would be announced in the next few days. He is expected to join the Holocaust Commission, as well as becoming anti-corruption tsar.