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Pickles discriminated against Romany gypsies, court rules

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has unlawfully discriminated against Romany gypsies Credit: PA

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has unlawfully discriminated against Romany gypsies wanting pitches in the green belt, the High Court has ruled.

In a ruling likely to affect many other travellers, a judge said both human rights and equality laws were breached by Mr Pickles and his department "calling in" cases that would normally be considered by his planning inspectors.

Mr Justice Gilbart, sitting in London, said Mr Pickles' department had "coined and developed" a practice in 2013-2014 of calling in all, and then a majority, of Green Belt traveller cases - most involving Romany gypsies or Irish travellers - "which discriminated unlawfully against a racial group".

His test-case ruling was a victory for two Romany gypsies - Charmaine Moore, a single mother with three children who is under threat of eviction from a site at North Cudham in the London borough of Bromley, and Sarah Coates, a disabled woman also with three children fighting to live temporarily on Green Belt land at Sutton-at-Hone near Dartford, Kent.


'Spy cars' ban to rein in 'greedy councils'

Banning CCTV cameras on cars will stop "greedy" councils using the method as a "cash cow", Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said.

Nine million parking fines are estimated to be handed out by local councils in England every year, generating £1.3 billion in revenue in 2010, and Mr Pickles believes too many parking tickets were being issued for the "wrong reasons".

Eric Pickles speaking to ITV News. Credit: ITV News

"CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls," the MP said.

"Over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable stealth fines by post undermine the high street, push up the cost of living and cost local authorities more in the long term.

"Today the Government is taking urgently needed action to ban this clear abuse of CCTV, which should be used to catch criminals, and not as a cash cow."

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.

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."

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."

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.

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."

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