Eric Pickles is actually going to change local government for ever
I must confess to having a sneaking regard for larger-than-life Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
When I first came across Mr Pickles, he was the newly-elected Conservative leader of Bradford Council in the late 1980s.
A Tory in charge of Bradford at that time was almost as shocking as the man who sat on the Queen's bed.
Mr Pickles hasn't changed much in the intervening years; if anything his views have hardened.
His basic take on local government is that councils generally are a wasteful over-paid, under-performing, over-zealous, interfering bunch of nitwits and that almost all services could be run more efficiently and cheaply by private and voluntary sectors.
It is difficult to think of any previous Local Government Secretary, with the possible exception of Nicholas Ridley, holding such extreme views.
Not that Mr Ridley achieved very much in the way of radical change, more of a tinkering around the edges at best.
No one should underestimate Mr Pickles's capacity to transform the local government landscape, since many of his ideas fit naturally into the post-Comprehensive Spending Review world of financial austerity. He was one of the first cabinet ministers to reach agreement with the Treasury on his department's spending plans, and you get the feeling that he would have axed even more from budgets if he could have got away with it.
Two of his more interesting ideas concern Local Enterprise Partnerships and amalgamation of neighbouring council functions.
On LEPs, he has made it abundantly clear that the only organisations to get approval will be those where businesses really are in the forefront of delivering change.
He is unlikely to be sympathetic to LEPs which are nothing more than a collection of council old chums getting together to spend some money, with subservient business leaders in their pockets. Neither will he approve LEPs based on political alliances rather than real economic travel to work areas.
In an interview with the Birmingham Post after the CSR, Mr Pickles hinted at highly-paid council chief executives taking responsibility for running more than one local authority (they should not expect a wage rise, I suspect).
Birmingham City Council chief executive Stephen Hughes, for instance, could find himself running services in neighbouring Sandwell and Walsall.
Mr Pickles is also keen on smaller councils, particularly in shire counties, cutting costs by sharing service provision. This might work well in, say, Warwickshire, where the five district councils and one county council could easily share back office functions as well as refuse collection.
His critics will say that this is local government reorganisation through the back door, which of course it is.
Mr Pickles knows that he would struggle to force major boundary changes and abolition of some councils past Tory backbenchers. But dress it up as efficiencies and cost-cutting, and he has a sporting chance.