THERE'S an old expression, 'divide and conquer', which seems particularly apt after today's front page story.

If you want to make a room full of children squabble, you couldn't do much better than promise them a whole bag of chocolates if they agree how to do a set of tasks themselves, then tell them when they're already halfway through their jobs that the work they've agreed on isn't good enough so they'll only get half the bag.

Whose fault was it exactly? Whose idea was it to do that like that? And, most importantly, who now gets to have the chocolates – do you still divide them up equally, or should the people with the stupid ideas get less, even though everyone agreed on the plan?

This is how central Government now treats your local authorities: rather than give all councils a decent budget each year to do with as the elected councillors decide, based on voters' wishes, the Government now plays a sort of game with councils a bit like the TV show The Apprentice, making councils jump just to get funding for basic highways improvements.

That causes arguments at the local level, when local councillors should be focusing their energies on common enemies.