NO-ONE should surely have expected good news when Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles stood up in the House of Commons to talk about funding for local authorities.

But neither would most people be happy with his description of a 1.7% cut in spending power for councils next year as “a bargain to local authorities.”

Kirklees Council leader, Clr Mehboob Khan was quick to respond saying that more cuts on top of the £84m savings already imposed on the authority would inevitably mean a reduction in council services.

According to Mr Pickles though, the settlement still left councils with considerable spending power.

And he insisted that there was significant potential across both local and central government to save taxpayers’ money.

He’s even come up with 50 suggestions as to how councils can make the pennies count. Many of the ideas are things that are already done.

Who these days runs glitzy award ceremonies, which councils still pay for first class travel, which authorities don’t try to tackle fraud and claw back money from benefits cheats?

Some councils may still need a reality check but others have worked hard to come up with sensible savings at a time when services, particularly for the elderly and the vulnerable are increasingly in demand.

Yes, we would all urge our councillors to look long and hard at where savings can be made, but we’d also like Ministers to understand that some vital services are very near the edge.