MoT Tests - council or private?
Eric Pickles has been one of the most effective members of the government at cutting bureaucracy and red tape: so I was a bit surprised to see it suggested in today's "The Sun" leader that Eric was trying to close down private sector MOT test centres and replace them with council ones.
That would not be a good idea, and unfortunately some councils may be capable of misinterpreting what the Secretary of State really said in such a way, so in that sense "The Sun" has a point.
But to be fair to the secretary of state for Communities and Local government, his objective was not to drive all private garages out of the MOT business, particularly not the ones who offer a good service, but to open up council-run MOT test centres which are used to check vehicles like buses for their safety and roadworthiness, and get them to also open their doors to the public.
This may save both the council tax payer and the motorist money by providing more competition, but good private garages (like the one I use) have nothing to fear from it. Only the cowboys are in any danger of being driven out of business by competition.
What Eric Pickles actually said while visiting a council MOT test centre in Wandsworth recently was that "Pushing up parking charges is in many ways the lazy approach to raising revenue. MOT schemes show that there are plenty of opportunities for councils to raise extra income without turning motorists into cash cows.
"With a little bit of innovation and creative thinking councils can use the skills and resources already at their disposal to charge and trade in a way that boosts town hall coffers whilst helping rather than hitting the pockets of drivers.
"There is nothing inherently wrong with councils making the most of opportunities to generate extra cash offering and charging for services. In many cases this is happening as an add on to their normal business.
"When the approach is sensible, local people are likely to support trading and charging particularly where doing it helps to protect other services, keeps council tax bills down or when residents themselves can benefit from the services on offer."