Eric Pickles and the mysterious government pub he closed twice

Government waste is a troublesome enemy. You think you’ve got rid of it but it comes back.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had a fine bit of red meat to throw to his Tory audience last weekend: the axing of the subsidised bar in his department.

And lo - the Eland Darts Club was to be scrapped! He told his assembled Conservative colleagues: “It’s a dinosaur. It’s a reminder of another age. So I’ve called time…The public don’t want to see politicians guzzle cheap drink at their expense. The House of Commons and its Labour MPs should take note.”

All very good news. However, it gets a bit odder when going back just one year.

The Mail on Sunday featured a nicely well-informed titbit in July 2012 from its DCLG spies about the scourge of waste Eric Pickles getting rid of a departmental bar.

Their columnist wrote: “Eric Pickles has called time on the in-house bar used by his staff to drink away the stresses of Whitehall life.

“The Communities and Local Government department [DCLG] boozer thronged with activity in the Labour years, but now it has served its last G&T. Pickles told officials: ‘If you want a drink, go to the pub’.”

The bar in Eland Darts Club seems to have been bugging Pickles for quite some time. Even before his time in government, he asked the government in 2008 about how much it costed. The bar was reported to sell bubbly at £8.10 a bottle, as compared to £14.95 at a pub across the road.

So has Eric Pickles been twice as studious in bearing down on internal alcohol supplies? Has he shut down two bars? Or is it a classic ministerial case of making the same reannouncement twice?

The DCLG weren’t giving much away, with a spokeswoman telling “the Eland Darts Club is closed, that’s all I can say”.

Could the DCLG confirm when the bar was closed? “The bar is closed, that’s all I can say”, she repeated.

Pickles’ depatment is correct on that at least, with the listed phone number for the Eland Darts Club going through to a dead line.

But the mystery remains - when exactly did landlord Pickles call time on his departmental pub?

One thing seems sure: he either reannounced the same pub closure, or it takes a long time to close a bar in DCLG.

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