Josie on: Local Government
On the last day of Party Conference I took part in a discussion with Caroline Flint on ‘Standing As A Councillor’ (see link). One of the questions put forward was related to the local government settlement. My response was short and sweet – this government does not understand the needs of our communities — with poorer boroughs worst affected. The question is how can Labour run authorities responded that will set the stage for a labour major and a lobour government ?
There’s no doubt that the aim is to reduce the role of local government within our communities. Yet London boroughs in particular are expected to continue to meet the growing pressures on providing enough school places as well as building enough adequate housing for the socio-economic make-up of the given borough, despite support for social housing being cut by more than 60%.
Weekly bin collections are important to me, but I hear nothing from the Government that will help us to deal with the massive inequity in our city. Although London has more high- income households than any other region in England, it also contains the largest proportion of low-income households. 28% of the capital’s neighbourhoods are in the most deprived 20% in the country.
Faced with such deep cuts I am happy to see that no labour councils were lead by the extreme left potion of setting an illegal budget by refusing to make any cuts. That position damaged labour during the 80’s as labour run councils were branded as “Lonny left” and made the party unelectable during that period. Although I understand councillors calling for cull of so called “Fat Cats”, even though it more symbolic than actually making any significant dent in the millions that we have to cut. However my concern would be efishancey and a well run organisation and hack away at senior manger might damage the effances of our authorities in the long run,
During this time I believe that it’s important that Labour authorities are able to show what they stand for. Prevention work is not a statuary service that councils must provide, for example early family prevention work, and these may be put forward by local government officers as the most obvious options. But I fear that cutting prevention services will cost us not only in financial terms years down the line but is social terns . Dealing with the root course his be a line spun out by all parties, now labour can show that we are the only one’s that are committed to our communities.
Sheared services and more joined up working is something that elected members need to push forward. Boroughs can become extremely territorial. However the conservative run boroughs of ? West London Alliance have repied the benefits of working together not only been a financial but political force for years, why can’t labour boroughs in the east be a stronger policail force?
I ask myself how vocal has Boris Johnson been in his duty to stand up for London. Local authorities have been put in the position where they are having to choose between library services, tackling anti-social behaviour, transport, or housing provision, to name but a few. While Johnson talks of cutting bureaucracy and local government waste the long term effects on the development of communities.
I hope that Labour councils will take a strategic long term approach to the cuts, by ring fencing key services. The priorities will be different in every borough, however, it would send a strong political message if it was somehow co- ordinated. Most councils have been doing cuts ‘across the board, But what makes having a Labour-run council different? In these dark days with a weak mayor and a Government that does not care Labour councils are lights of hope in London.