We must empower people to help themselves – and transform the way in which we govern

Jon Cruddas

On Wednesday I gave a speech to the New Local Government Network.

That’s a phrase you always want to hear out of a politician isn’t it…? but there are some big chunky issues to deal with as we decide what’s going in the next manifesto and I wanted to lay some of those out.

Here’s the short version: the route to One Nation is through a massive rebalancing of power, empowering people to help themselves and transform the way in which we govern.

Despite some big promises in opposition, the Tories have stripped back and centralised the state. If we win next year, a Labour Government would give power back to people by radically reforming the state, the market and society.

This is exactly the stuff Ed Miliband set out on Monday in his cracking Hugo Young speech. Ed knows that the failed experiments of an overly centralised state and an unrestrained market mean we can only transform public services if individual citizens and communities have far greater voice in decisions that affect them.

We’ve also just launched the One Nation Society document on the Your Britain website.

This is the second in the series of three One Nation publications, setting out the contribution of the policy review to Labour’s policy making process. These documents will be submitted to the relevant policy commissions within the National Policy Forum and through that route play a part in building One Nation Labour’s manifesto in 2015.

one nation society

This is what the report says:

  • The effects of recession, a Tory-led government and long standing forces are pulling at our social fabric and contributing to a sense of national decline.
  • Family life is under pressure from an inability to balance working life and time at home.
  • People have lost faith in our social security system, both as a means of rewarding contribution and as an institution that is there to protect them.
  • There is growing anxiety about the impact of continuing low skilled immigration on people’s standard of living.
  • People feel powerless in the face of these pressures and the hard truth for us is that they don’t think politicians have the ability to sort them out either.

I told you this was chunky stuff. We’re going to get stuck right in if we get into Government.

First off, we will devolve power. Instead of a retreating state we will build an empowering state that spreads power to people and places, rather than hoarding it in Whitehall. That is how we go about addressing the roots of the pressures families face even in tough times; giving them the power to shape their own lives and communities through institutions and relationships that they value as being their own.

Whitehall won’t be running all our schools from central London. We’re going to empower schools, make them locally accountable and give local communities the power to determine the shape of their high streets.

We’re going to shift resources from high cost reaction to the social ills we have, and invest in long-term prevention. We have to reduce future demand on public spending, but it’s also a better outcome for people. A compulsory jobs guarantee for all young people out of work for a year, and everyone out of work for two years, rather than paying for the costs of longterm worklessness and poor health.

Third, Labour’s view of citizenship is rooted in the idea of reciprocity and shared endeavour. Our individual freedom and the choices we make are dependent upon our relationships with others. For Labour the role of the state is to enable this kind of social freedom.

We will increase the power of local places by building collaboration between and across public services and organisations, and pooling funds to stop inefficiency and avoid duplication. The old silo mentality where different departments or services jealously guard their resources won’t work.

We recognise that public services work best when individuals who use them have a say over the outcomes. That means pushing resources and decision making down to the most local level appropriate to maximise individual choice and control. In the health service this means dealing with the increasing amount of chronic illness by making patients partners in their treatments. When people are helped to have control it can transform their lives.

We know that the route to One Nation is through a massive rebalancing of power, empowering people to help themselves and transform the way in which we govern.

This booklet shows more of the ideas and policies that will build out this agenda ahead of the Manifesto in 2015 – I hope you’ll take ten minutes to have a read of it.

Jon Cruddas is the Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, and is in charge of Labour’s Policy Review

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