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Eric Pickles tells UK's 'militant atheists' to 'get over it'

Eric Pickles has previously accused the former Labour government of "diminishing Christianity" by separating religion and politics. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Conservative minister Eric Pickles has told "militant atheists" who do not accept Britain is a Christian nation to "get over it".

Addressing the Conservative Spring Forum in London, the Communities Secretary said non-believers should not be able to impose "politically correct intolerance" on others.

He said those opposed to prayers at the start of council meetings should, "get over it. And don't impose your politically correct intolerance on others".

Mr Pickles changed the law in 2012 to ensure that English parish councils could not face legal challenges for including prayers in public meetings.

Pickles attacks Balls over 'sleeping during Budget' claim

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has hit back at Ed Balls after the shadow chancellor suggested he had fallen asleep during today's Budget speech.

Mr Balls had told a briefing of lobby journalists:

"Eric Pickles fell asleep for a quite extended period of time and Ed [Miliband] and I were worried because, you never know, there might have been some big cut in local government spending coming which he didn't know about so we just politely suggested to Vince Cable that he should wake him up."

In a Twitter reply to the Daily Mail's Tim Shipman, Mr Pickles witheringly dismissed Mr Balls' claims.

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Ed Balls has revealed the Labour front bench spent much of the Budget speech urging Vince Cable to wake up Eric Pickles.

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@shippersunbound my dear chum Shippers wide awake although sleep would have been a blessed release from Lab lacklustre response

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Paterson 'complains about Environment Agency sniping'

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has complained to Downing Street about Communities Secretary Eric Pickles' criticism of the Environment Agency, the Press Association reports.

Mr Paterson was leading the government response until he was forced to take leave for an eye operation. Mr Pickles is standing in for him on a temporary basis.

Eric Pickles 'very sorry' to hear about Mark Harper exit

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he was "very sorry" to hear about the resignation of Immigration Minister Mark Harper.

Mr Harper resigned after discovering the cleaner he employed was in the UK illegally.

Eric Pickles said he was 'very sorry' to hear about the resignation of Immigration Minister Mark Harper. Credit: ITV News

"I'm very sorry to hear about Mark Harper. He was a very good administer. I've known him a long time but I recognise the Prime Minister has accepted the resignation," Mr Pickles told ITV News.

"My best wishes go to him and his family."

Read: PM accepted Harper's resignation 'with regret'

Councils given extra £15m to meet flood costs

The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has said he will change the restrictions on access to emergency funds for local authorities to allow them to access an extra £15 million to cover immediate flood-related costs:

I will be writing to councils shortly about lowering the threshold for the Bellwin scheme, which I estimate will make an extra £15m available to meet the immediate costs associated with protecting lives and properties.

I want to pay tribute to all the people who have rallied to support those communities affected.

That impressive British goodwill has seen neighbour helping neighbour, people refusing to take money for providing shelter and Gatwick waiving fees for additional Flybe flights to Newquay.

– Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles

Pickles 'entirely agrees' with Charles' flood criticism

The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said he "entirely agreed" with Prince Charles's criticism about authorities' response to the floods.

He said: "I think people were surprised...but as soon as were alerted by the authorities we acted promptly."

Watch: Prince Charles speaks of Somerset flooding 'tragedy'

However, Mr Pickles would not be drawn in to if it were the Government or the Environment Agency who 'took so long' to react to the floods.

Earlier this week Prince Charles said the "tragedy" in flood-hit Somerset "is that nothing happened for so long" to help as he met local residents, farmers and emergency services personnel who have been affected.

Watch: Eric Pickles claims Environment Agency should have done more

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Pickles: 'There might have been a problem at the start'

The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has appeared to suggest that the Government and authorities may have been slow to react to the problem of the flooding.

Speaking to Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship, Mr Pickles said the Government "responded promptly and quickly to the Somerset authorities' request."

He added: "I don't mind that there might have been a problem at the beginning. Maybe there was a problem of communications.

"I neither know nor I care. What I care about is doing something about the Somerset Levels."

Mr Pickles has taken charge of the government's response to flooding after the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson required emergency eye surgery.

He blamed the Environment Agency for failing to dredge rivers. "I certainly believe that perhaps the decision taken regard to abandonment of dredging perhaps wasn't the wisest."

Read more: Government announces extra £30m for emergency flood repairs

Govt commits to protecting 42,000 homes from floods

In an emergency statement to the Commons, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said new government provisions will help protect more than 42,000 households in 2014/2015.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles leaves a Cobra meeting at the Cabinet Office in London
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles leaves a Cobra meeting at the Cabinet Office in London Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

"We've already put in place investment plans to improve the protection of at least 465,000 houses by the end of the decade. Together with other projects under construction in 2014/15, we will protect more than 42,00 households," said Pickles.

"The measures the coalition has announced today provide a clear commitment to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. The additional funding means this government will be investing more than £3.1 billion compared to £2.7bn in the previous 5 years under the last Labour government," he added.

Pickles: Taxpayers deserve weekly bin collections

Eric Pickles says people deserve a weekly bin collections service in return for their taxes.He said: "This Government is standing up for hard-working people and getting rid of barmy bin policies which made families' lives hell.

Communities Minister Eric Pickles. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire

"Rubbish collections are the most visible service that people get for their £120 a month council tax bill. People deserve a comprehensive weekly service in return for their taxes.

"We have exposed 10 false fictions from fortnightly bin barons they cling to as excuses for cutting services. If councils adopt this new guide as their 'bin bible', they will be able to save taxpayers' money and still increase the frequency and quality of rubbish and recycling collections."

"Across Britain, there is a clear choice on offer," he added.

"The Government in England is standing up for weekly collections; by contrast, the administrations in Wales and Scotland are moving towards monthly collections."

Pickles urges councils to resume weekly bin collections

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has published a 'bin bible' in a bid to encourage councils scrap "barmy" fortnightly bin collections.

The new guidance for local authorities exposes the claims made by "bin barons" to justify making cuts to services in England, the Conservative Cabinet Minister said.

Eric Pickles maintains recycling rates can be improved alongside weekly bin collections. Credit: Press Association

Mr Pickles has made weekly bin collections one of his top priorities for local government but critics have branded him a "philistine", claiming he has put money for bins ahead of funding for libraries and museums.

The brochure says it is a "clear myth" that councils cannot improve recycling rates without introducing fortnightly collections, setting out how a number of authorities have managed to recycle over half of all rubbish while maintaining weekly pick-ups.

It also dismisses suggestions that the only way to save money is to extend collection times, insisting that "innovative solutions" mean councils can protect weekly collections at little or no extra cost.

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