Forging the Labour alternative in our Town Halls

March 7, 2012 5:01 pm

Last week saw the last of Labour’s Town Halls set their Council Tax and budgets for next year. While local government is rarely at the centre of national debate, a good number of key public services like SureStart, housing, community safety and adult care are all still delivered by councils. How we approach these services in the future will define where we are as a party not just locally but nationally. Three years out from the next election Labour councils have already had to prioritise where to spend, where to cut and where to invest limited resources – already forging an alternative to this latest brand of Tory austerity and unabated marketisation.

The Government have cynically handed local government the largest burden of the cuts, and systemically hit those serving the most deprived communities with the greatest reduction in spending power. This has seen Lib Dems and Tories shamefully attempt to absolve themselves of the responsibility for the substantial and painful loss of local services across the country.

In Haringey, we realised that following the devastating national defeat in May 2010, locally Labour needed to find a means to set out our alternative, in what is now, with the exception of Wales, the frontline of Labour delivery. This is not just about winning back the political argument but delivering for residents albeit with our hands tied behind our backs.

So far, too much of the discussion has been solely about fiscal credibility and protecting the frontline. Important as this is, it does little to outline Labour’s alternative, or re- assert the positive role and power of government to improve people’s lives and communities.

One new idea – the Co-operative Councils – has gained popularity, but in truth the jury is out on a programme which differs little in tone from the Big Society. To be clear, the “Big Society” is not a “Third Way” between “big and small Government.” It is a cynical attack on any form of government intervention at all, and an assertion that the state can do no good, and is inherently inefficient.

With last week’s leaked ACEVO report demonstrating how the Third Sector has been hit hard as a result of Councils being forced to cut back on their grants regime, we now need to articulate how we can deliver the Better Society, through strong active government, delivering decent public services and correcting market failure.

Last Tuesday in Haringey we began to do just that, setting out a budget with a first wave of new policy innovations, with the core objective of tackling the biggest market failure of all – inequality.

At the heart of our expenditure is a £3.5m Youth Jobs Fund and a £1.2m One Borough One Future Fund – designed to support social innovation in Haringey. The latter of these funds will be open to bids from Councillors, frontline officers, and community organisations – anyone with ideas of how we might improve services to reduce inequalities and strengthen our communities.

Tottenham now has the highest unemployment rate in London, and Haringey’s total and youth unemployment has grown faster than almost anywhere else in the capital. The Youth Jobs Fund has been created in response, through an aggressive fiscal strategy releasing one-off sums of money by relieving pressure on our capital budget. The money will go to directly subsidise real paid jobs, for at least 12 months, for Haringey’s youth.

There are those that believe we could just point to the failure of Tory and Lib Dem policies – a work programme that isn’t working and a youth contract not worth the paper it’s written on. As a council though it simply isn’t enough to rail against the unfairness of the Government settlement and their abject failure on young people and jobs. We need to show the power of a renewed activism in local government.

The truth is we recognised that the triple whammy of scrapping the Future Jobs Fund, the EMA, and the hike in tuition fees would have a devastating impact on young people here in Haringey and as early as June 2010 set about identifying the funds for a programme due to be launched in May this year that addresses these challenges head on.

The jobs fund is likely to be the largest intervention in the labour market by any authority in the country and if successful, we will seek to raise further funds for a second phase. In doing so we hope to be able to make a difference for the people and the communities of our borough in the face of Tory economic and political failure – forging Labour’s alternative on the front line.

Our hope is that the One Borough One Future Fund will spawn similar initiatives and new solutions – whether to finally crack down on rogue landlords and the overcrowded HMOs that blight our city, or support efforts by the credit union to provide an alternative to the legal loan-sharks like Wonga that prey on vulnerable families.

We are pursuing a values-based policy agenda, with an ambition for realising the better society – a more equal society – right here in Haringey. It’s not just about stepping in where the Government are failing, whether on jobs, young people or inequality but about continuing to assert the power of Labour values to transform communities and express our alternative to the coalition not just through words but through our actions.

Joe Goldberg is the Cabinet Member for Finance and Carbon Reduction, London Borough of Haringey

  • treborc

    Sad to see the majority of the Remploy factories closing, this was on the books no matter which party was in power.

  • sexybru

    a lot of people dont understand politics , dont understand the right wing brainwashing of the press, dont understand the selfish greedy minds of conservatives and the evil re-defining of the meaning of fairness . labour need to take to the streets and tell people what they are doing.

Latest

  • Featured Irreconcilable differences and unreasonable behaviour

    Irreconcilable differences and unreasonable behaviour

    I committed one of those Twitter no-nos last week when the news about Douglas Carswell quitting the Tories to join Ukip broke. Digging up a piece I’d written here on the day of the Cameron EU speech at Bloomberg in January 2013 , I reminded a grateful universe that, far from seeing that speech as a bold stroke of political genius – quite a widely held view at the time – I thought it had been a disaster that was bound […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland In Scotland, we’re offering what people are really asking for

    In Scotland, we’re offering what people are really asking for

    There are just seventeen days to go until Scots vote in the independence referendum, and many people are already voting by post. Two years of work is about to culminate in two weeks of all out campaigning for every last vote. And in these two weeks, the Labour Party will be spelling out again our vision for the future of Scotland. I’ve been involved in Scottish politics for forty years, but this isn’t like any campaign I’ve ever taken part […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured To defeat UKIP we need to look to the GMB, not anti-fascist campaigns

    To defeat UKIP we need to look to the GMB, not anti-fascist campaigns

    It was only when I arrived in the UK that I became politically active. The first step was handing out anti-BNP leaflets for Unite Against Fascism outside Brixton tube station. It was the 2008 London Assembly elections and it was part of the campaign to stop the BNP from winning an assembly seat. I’d never been involved in political activity before that and like a lot of people wanted to stay away from anything involving politicians. But I felt this […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The public are calling for a progressive alternative – Labour must seize the moment

    The public are calling for a progressive alternative – Labour must seize the moment

    For much of its period in office, this Tory-led Government has stood accused of being out of touch with the British people. When I made my maiden speech in the House of Commons on 25 May 2010, I implored the Government to learn the lessons of history.  I said the power of the state can be a force for good, but my words fell on deaf ears. Now, four-and-a-half-years after my parliamentary debut, it isn’t just opposition politicians like me who […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour to abolish Police and Crime Commissioner posts by May 2016

    Labour to abolish Police and Crime Commissioner posts by May 2016

    The Sunday People reports this morning that Labour will abolish Police and Crime Commissioners if elected next year. A senior party source told the paper “They’re finished. The only question now is what we will replace them with”. The paper goes on to suggest that PCCs will cease to exist from May 2016. The roles have come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, with Shaun Wright refusing to quit as South Yorkshire PCC over the Rotherham child abuse scandal, Bedfordshire […]

    Read more →