Forging the Labour alternative in our Town Halls

7th March, 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

  • Comment Featured Roosh V: the government’s hands-off approach reflects their weak effort to tackle gender violence

    Roosh V: the government’s hands-off approach reflects their weak effort to tackle gender violence

    This weekend Roosh V and his misogynist and vicious ‘Return of Kings’ groups were scheduled to meet across the UK as part of a so-called ‘world tour’. This is the man who suggested that rape on private property should be legalised. Let’s be clear from the outset. There is never, ever, under any circumstances, any justification for rape. It is a crime of the utmost seriousness, one which, despite a recent increase in the number of rapes reported, still too […]

    Read more →
  • News Former Head of the Civil Service criticises government plan to cut party funding

    Former Head of the Civil Service criticises government plan to cut party funding

    Lord Kerslake, former Head of the Civil Service (2012-2014), has criticised the Government’s plans to cut Short money and change trade union funding. Lord Kerslake is a crossbencher. Appearing on BBC Sunday Politics he said the Government’s plans signalled “a worryingly authoritarian streak in government” that finds it difficult to accept challenge. He said everyone, regardless of party affiliation, should be concerned about the changes. He voiced similar concerns at the start of the year. The Government are planning to […]

    Read more →
  • News Corbyn calls on Cameron to reveal British military plan against Isis in Libya

    Corbyn calls on Cameron to reveal British military plan against Isis in Libya

    Jeremy Corbyn has called on David Cameron to give assurance that no decision has been made to use drones in Libya, as there are concerns drones might be operating in the country. The Independent has reported that the Labour leader has asked the Prime Minister to give “unequivocal assurance that no decision has been taken to use drones in support of military operations in Libya”. Corbyn has said Cameron needs to give a “clear commitment” to ask Parliament before he pursues […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Tories’ turmoil should ring snap election alarm bells

    Tories’ turmoil should ring snap election alarm bells

    As most party members know all too well, Labour will face its first major electoral test under Jeremy Corbyn this May. Crucial as these polls are for all of us, particularly our candidates, we cannot blithely assume that they will be the only contest that we will face this year. We need to be on a general election war footing. In June, decades of Tory infighting are set to reach a crescendo with the referendum on membership of the European […]

    Read more →
  • News “We need answers which are both radical and credible” – full text of Jon Ashworth’s Future of the Centre Left speech

    “We need answers which are both radical and credible” – full text of Jon Ashworth’s Future of the Centre Left speech

    This is the full text of the speech given by Shadow Cabinet member Jon Ashworth to Progress’ The Future of Labour’s Centre Left event on Tuesday. Thank you for inviting me to speak – my first time at a Progress event. We meet tonight after two general election defeats. So tonight’s discussion about the future of the centre left is timely. Beyond the confines of our party or the borders of our country, there are forces driving huge waves of change […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit