Welcome to local government week on LabourList – a chance for us to showcase, discuss and debate the role, contribution and work of Labour councils and councillors in both power and opposition in the week leading up to Labour Local Government Conference on Saturday, February 8th.
As Labour’s leader in local government, and one of just two local government representatives on Labour’s national executive committee, I am delighted that LabourList have agreed to work with us to provide a platform for a variety of viewpoints over the next week. We’ve put together a great team of contributors from across our movement – councillors, council leaders, mayors, Members of Parliament, and trade unionists – all with a focus on the activities of Labour in local government.
Each day LabourList will publish articles on a daily theme, starting with today’s contributors who each offer a different perspective on why Labour’s future must be local. On Tuesday, we’ll be hearing about how Labour councillors in power are delivering for their communities. Wednesday will focus on the importance of investing in local leadership. We’ll be focusing on some of the biggest policy challenges in local government on Thursday, and on Friday our authors are looking at why Labour’s campaign strategy needs to start with a fightback at the local level. On Saturday, to coincide with the Local Government leadership and deputy leadership hustings at our conference in Nottingham, our contributors will be debating what the role of Labour in local government should be in the party.
The Labour Local Government Conference, which will take place in Nottingham on Saturday, is one of the most important we’ve held in years. Our party is at a crossroads, with many of us feeling that the result of the leadership election will determine whether Labour aspires to be a party of government again. As councillors, we’ll obviously be listening closely to all candidates for signs that they understand the importance of local government to Labour.
There are already positive signs that candidates are eager to listen and learn from local councillors, and many have already started to talk to councillors about how they intend to work with us. We are working hard to ensure every candidate understands that they must respect and trust Labour councillors and local councils, and that they truly understand the vital necessity of shifting power and resources out of Westminster and towards local communities.
Real devolution, not the skin-deep version offered by the Tories, could become the driver of an economic recovery that benefits the entire country. Key priorities of elected national governments will still be vitally important, but Labour should be pledging to give freedom to local communities to decide how they are implemented in their areas, resisting the temptation to meddle from Whitehall.
Localism makes sense in terms of delivering efficient and improved public services, but there is a much more powerful political argument too. Many communities in our country have expressed a loss of identity and a feeling that they no longer have control over their own lives. Local government is connected with our communities, and built on foundations of openness, transparency, and accountability.
Giving more power and freedom to councils and local communities won’t restore faith in the political system at a stroke. But as our research will show this week, the public have always placed significantly more trust in their local council than in the national government. Local government offers the next Labour government a real way of being able to meaningfully return power and control to people who would otherwise feel increasingly shut out of the system.
I hope we’ll be able to show members who follow our work this week that in Labour council leaders and councillors the next Labour government has a deep well of experience to draw from. Councillors are the most accountable members of the party – rightly answerable to residents, local members and party bodies – and deserve a wider voice in the Labour Party. We hope that the next leader of our party – whoever that is – understands this and works with us to raise the profile and standing of local government in our party.
A huge thanks again to Sienna and the LabourList team for working with us on local government week. I look forward to seeing the reactions and views put forward in the comments, and to debating Labour in local government’s role in our party over the coming months and years.