National executive committee (NEC) members are set to agree measures to deal with local Labour groups that have been “underperforming” in local elections – which could include the removal from office of Labour council leaders.
Internal party documents to be put before the party’s governing body, which LabourList has seen, state that should work to improve such groups fail, “the party may consider action such as the removal of the group leader”.
The proposal, to be voted on by the NEC, argues that underperforming Labour groups (ie. the councillors and council leaders that run local authorities) risk “undermining the cause of increasing Labour representation at all levels”.
The proposal before the governing body is for the party to establish “campaign improvement boards” (CIBs) made up of senior Labour Party stakeholders with “substantial experience of local government”. The papers add: “Their primary purpose will be to support Labour groups that require improvement.”
NEC member Gemma Bolton told LabourList: “Labour groups are the only people that should have a right to decide their leader’s, not party apparatchiks. Another deeply authoritarian move from Keir Starmer, who appears to adore anti-democratic stitch ups, crushing debate and subduing differences of opinion.”
Regional directors will choose the Labour groups running underperforming local authorities that the party feels need improvement, according to the measures outlined, and report back to the NEC through the general secretary David Evans.
The boards established by the party will “develop a bespoke campaign training and development plan, with leaders, councillors, and candidates expected to attend”.
The document stated that, as a measure falling short of removing council leaders, the party could alternatively decide that for a “six-month period the intervention may be extended by the [regional director] for subsequent six-month periods until the required standards are achieved”.
NEC member Luke Akehurst told LabourList: “My personal experience as a Hackney councillor was that peer intervention and support can be part of turning round local authorities with seemingly intractable problems and crises and making them success stories.
“If a Labour group is underperforming in campaigning or a Labour council failing in service delivery or hits a financial crisis we need mechanisms to send in the help and support needed to turn things round and to take firm action to tackle bad or negligent behaviour.
“As a party we owe it to the public to maintain the highest possible standards across local government and ensure weaker groups and councils are helped to improve by those with relevant expertise and skills.”
The paper to be considered says there are “varying reasons” for local authorities not to be performing well in local elections, including: “Poor local campaigning culture and practice, lack of capacity in the local group or party and inexperienced leadership.”
The document continues to state that the NEC has “agreed ad hoc interventions in a number of such areas, and the [Local Government Association] Labour group has offered improvement support and campaign training” in recent years.
Reacting to the plan today, a Momentum spokesperson told LabourList: “We don’t need ‘hit squads’, especially if the leadership uses these to attack the left yet again.
“We do need an end to councils siding with developers over people and a mass rollout of community wealth building trainings to give elected officials the tools and confidence they need to deliver wealth and power for local communities. Momentum is just doing that, and the Labour leadership should follow our lead.”
Huffpost UK reported earlier today that Croydon Council, in London, is understood to be one of the local authority Labour groups that has been identified as underperforming by senior party figures. Labour lost control of the council this month following controversy over the managing of its finances.
The Labour Party and the leader’s office have been contacted for comment.