19 March 2004
Conservative local government leaders have hailed the party's decision to appoint a spokesman on town hall finance for the first time, as recognition of the issue's increasing political significance.
Peter Chalke, leader of the Local Government Association's Tory group, enthusiastically endorsed the appointment of deputy party chair David Cameron to the post.
The move was announced on March 15, following the decision by shadow local government secretary David Curry to resign from the shadow Cabinet for 'family reasons'.
Chalke told Public Finance that the decision to create the post, as part of the mini-reshuffle caused by Curry's departure, was an indication of how seriously the national party was taking local government finance.
In recent months, protests against possible further big rises in council taxes have propelled the issue to the top of the political agenda and prompted a wide-ranging review by government.
'David Curry had an intimate knowledge of finance issues and it has become a very hot topic in recent months,' Chalke told PF.
'I am very pleased that we're going to have someone focusing particularly on this issue, especially as David Cameron is an up-and-coming star in the party.'
Curry, who joined the shadow Cabinet just four months ago after Michael Howard was named party leader, has been replaced by environment spokeswoman Caroline Spelman.
Chalke said: 'I know Caroline and she is a very safe pair of hands. I look forward to working with her.'
Spelman's environment brief has gone to Richard Ottaway, while her role as spokeswoman for women has gone to Eleanor Laing. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has left the local government team to go to the whips' office.