If we are to prepare for power nationally then we should do more to crowdsource solutions to modern problems from Labour politicians already taking decisions – our local government leaders.
We have endured eight years of a Conservative Party that has sought to cripple local authorities by slashing budgets and displacing need from other arms of the state with no end in sight. Under this government it is the poor, the young and the vulnerable that are suffering the most and it is local authorities left to pick up the pieces.
Homelessness is at its highest level for a generation, social care is reeling from a crisis of excess demand and under supply and many local authorities are struggling fill the gaps caused by cuts in welfare and stagnation in the NHS budget. For many people the council is the last line of defence – and that line is thinning.
The evidence is plain that practical and effective solutions to the biggest challenges are coming from those who work on on them every day. It is Labour-led authorities that are reinventing municipal socialism and attempting to hold back the tide of need.
When Labour is in office, at any level, we make different choices from the Tories: in the face of austerity we seek to mitigate harm. Ultimately the Conservatives don’t want to give us the ability to create change and instead, by slashing Labour-held local authority budgets, they are forcing us to make decisions we don’t want to make. Efficiency savings can only do so much and with many local authorities losing a third or more of their income they have to innovate or local services will fold.
On the left we have a built-in desire to help people – so when push comes to shove we try everything to find a way to help and make things better, or at least less worse. But for those who support the labour movement, they want to see us do more than just provide basic services.
Labour supporters have ambitions for what we want local authorities to do. These include the provision and regulation of decent and affordable places to live; building a vibrant local economy filled with shops, bars and businesses; tackling air pollution and fighting climate change; making it easier for us to use public transport; making the streets safer and cleaner; providing better access to healthcare; planning for a future that has opportunities for everyone; and helping those in need.
I have recently taken up the position of local government policy liaison on the Young Fabian national executive as I have a keen interest in how the labour movement puts its ideals into practice locally. The Young Fabians is the only member-led think tank run by young people in Britain. Our membership is made up of some exceptionally clever young people who can provide an insight into what the public want to see from Labour in local government.
The research project we are carrying out this year, supported and part funded by the Labour group at the Local Government Association, is to go around the country and look at innovation in councils and how it improves communities. We will crowdsource the most innovative policy solutions and share them as widely as possible. We are aiming to complete the process by August so we can launch the final booklet at party conference in September.
So far, we have events booked or in planning for Liverpool, Stevenage, Crawley, Lincoln, Brighton, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow, Northern Ireland, Camden, Newham in east London and Nottingham, among others.
We hope through this process to galvanise and inspire action across the country, encouraging local authorities and partners to take bold steps in tackling the biggest issues of our time.
If you want to contribute to the review then email me on [email protected]
Adam Allnut is local government policy liaison officer on the Young Fabians executive.