Posts Tagged ‘local government’

For local government scrutiny to match Westminster, Westminster must fund, empower and trust councils to do it

19/11/2017, 11:19:34 PM

by Mike Amesbury

For years, councillors, and local government as an institution has been rightly fed up. Fed up of being  told by Whitehall mandarins, policy wonks, and sections of the media that central government knows best, and that local government can’t be trusted to spend money efficiently and effectively.

When local councils feature in the national media it is more likely to be a report of an unfortunate, or context-free story about the odd daft parking ticket or litter enforcement notice, than any detailed coverage of innovative service delivery or agenda setting leadership.

National government – including disappointingly Labour in government, all too often saw local authorities as a funnel for delivering national policy, rather than trusted bodies able and capable of making their own decisions on spending and priorities. Of course, in comparison with the cuts councils currently face, a return to that 1997-2010 period would be hugely welcome. The unprecedented level of localised funding was positive and necessary – it was the constraints and control attached that were less so.

I know this, because for many years I was a councillor in Manchester, and when it comes to the assumption “Westminster knows best”, the reality is usually anything but. Recent LGA research showed that 72% of people trusted their local council more than central government to make decisions about their area. Satisfaction remains high and consistent – despite years of cuts and contraction in services. No local politician of any colour will look at Universal Credit, and accept that Whitehall knows how to deliver services locally.

So as a new member of the Communities and Local Government Select committee I’m clear that the approach I’ll take is to be local government’s voice in Westminster, not the other way round. I’m sure that my committee colleagues will do similar, with many of them bringing significant experience and expertise of local government to the House of Commons.

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Like the US Republicans, Labour is a local party with few pretensions to national relevance

16/08/2016, 10:17:19 PM

by Samuel Dale

The Republican party currently controls 31 of the 50 governorships in the United States compared to just 18 for the Democrats.

The one independent governor Bill Walker of Alaska only left the party in 2014 so he could take on the incumbent so, really, it’s 32 Republican governors.

In addition, Republicans control the state assemblies and senate in 23 of those states giving them supreme control over law-making.

By contrast, Democrats only have total control in seven states. Seven Democrat governors are also grappling with Republican-controlled state legislative chambers while only four Republican governors deal with Democrat controlled state legislatures.

Four Republican governors and four Democrat governors deal with split legislatures.

Put Simply: when it comes to local governments the Republican party is completely and utterly dominant while the national party is in meltdown.

The reason for the mismatch is multi-faceted. Firstly, most governor elections take place during mid-terms where turnout is low and presidential incumbents are unpopular. Opposition parties pick up local wins.

This problem is compounded by the fact that all US governors have two-term limits meaning they have to give up the power of incumbency. Only two governors – both Democrat – were elected before Obama became president.

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SW1 Labour is too busy pretending to be in the West Wing to value Labour’s local government leaders

30/08/2015, 12:45:36 PM

by Theo Blackwell

It takes the polemicist Simon Jenkins to hit the nail on the head: our most talented leaders are outside of Westminster in local government – and ‘SW1 Labour’s’ love of centralism and conformity continues to freeze them out.  Labour has outstanding leaders. It’s a shame that they are all in the regions | Simon Jenkins. Not using too much hyperbole, he writes of the pre-election devo-Manc discussions:

“A significant moment in the downfall of Ed Miliband came in spring of last year after George Osborne’s “northern powerhouse” speech. Manchester’s boss, Richard Leese, was in the middle of negotiating with Osborne on his city’s devolution plan. It involved a major restructuring of public administration, possibly across all of local government. Miliband’s office wanted Leese to rubbish Osborne’s speech. The reply was reputedly unquotable in a family newspaper. Who did these snivelling Westminster teenagers think they were addressing?”

Without a doubt this was a political moment which revealed the lack of depth and hubris of team Ed – none of whom had local government experience and often gave the impression to council leaders that their interventions were just rude interruptions to their far more important ‘West Wing’ world of policy announcements.  Local government was seen a something to be managed rather than an opportunity to be harnessed as part of our story around credibility, innovation and growth.

Be in no doubt, in Labour local government circles this sorry episode continues to be regarded as a most monstrous tactical error by the previous leadership, as territory ceded to the Conservatives will be hard to regain.  (Indeed, Andy Burnham has had to work hard with local government figures to distance himself from the ‘Swiss Cheese NHS’ description of locally combined budgets he used in the run up to the election).

But today our governing experience is almost exclusively in local government and Wales, and not in the Parliamentary Labour party.  This will be same for the next 5 years.

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Osborne’s new austerity will force local government beyond breaking point

09/12/2014, 08:02:33 PM

by Kieran Quinn

December the 12th is one of my favourite days of the year: I attend the pensioner Christmas party in my ward. It’s an opportunity to mark the contribution that many of our senior citizens have made to Tameside in Greater Manchester. It also gives people the chance to celebrate and socialise with other Tameside pensioners.

With further austerity measures being levelled on local government over the next few years, I fear for the future of events like these, and services that residents have taken for granted.

£142 million will have been taken from our budget by 2017, we are currently consulting on the £38 million of cuts imposed upon our borough over the next two years, and we are now at a tipping point. Put simply, with half of our budget taken away we simply cannot fund the same level of services, and our workforce has halved so far. We are beyond the approach of doing more for less, despite a hardworking, innovative and dedicated workforce.

As the 980 residents that have taken part in our budget consultation will know, nearly two thirds of our budget is spent on safeguarding the very young and the very old. These services are statutory, laid down in law by parliament. With no additional resources put into these services our ability to provide for our most vulnerable citizens will come into question.

While any funding ring-fenced for the NHS is welcome(a one-off figure of £2 billion , not year on year) a more holistic approach to public sector funding is needed. If you cut our budget by £142 million, high spend areas such as Adult Services are not immune from this and the pressure on NHS resources goes up. It is both morally and economically sensible to integrate these budgets, the emphasis must be on early help in the home and community.

Enough really is enough. If the Chancellor genuinely believed “we are all in these challenging financial times together”, he would have responded to the cross party call for a fair approach to local government finances and deliver an even bolder approach to devolution.

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What are Labour councils for?

31/03/2011, 01:00:14 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Socialism, Herbert Morrison once helpfully summarised, is what the Labour party does. A partial assessment to be sure, but is there a more reliable compass for what Labour politicians in office should find themselves doing?

In a few short weeks, local authorities up and down the country will go red as voters give their verdict on 12 months of dismal Tory-Lib Dem cutbacks and recession. But what, when faced with reducing expenditure by a quarter, will Labour councils offer by way of a response?

Labour today launches its campaign for those elections with a blizzard of statistics and weblinks playing out the familiar annual ritual of showing that Labour councils are better value than Tory ones. The Tories will, naturally enough, produce rival spreadsheets next week showing the reverse. Plus ca change.

To accompany the usual political riffs, the party has also published a document entitled: Labour: Your voice in tough times. It suggests that: “…every Labour councillor you elect will be your community’s first line of defence against the damage being done by a Conservative-led government and its Liberal Democrat allies”. (more…)

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Poor communities will be cut more than rich

15/11/2010, 05:07:53 PM

by Michael Dugher

After the comprehensive spending review, the institute for fiscal studies said that the government’s policies will hit the poorest families harder than the better off. It said that the tax and benefit changes were “regressive”, and would have a greater impact, relative to income, on people at the lower end of the scale. David Cameron says “we’re all in this together”, but as various reports will show in the coming weeks, how badly affected you are depends on where you live.

Key to this unfairness are the cuts in funding to local authorities, who all face reductions of seven per cent a year. But this will not mean that all local authorities will face equal cuts in their budgets. The reductions in central government grant will clearly have a much bigger impact on those councils who serve more deprived areas. In areas like my own in Barnsley, needs are higher but the council tax base is lower. If you are more reliant on central government funding and raise less funding locally, you will not have the capacity to recover funding shortfalls. (more…)

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Never underestimate the Lib Dems’ capacity for survival

05/11/2010, 12:00:56 PM

by Paul Richards

THERE’S Labour jubilation at the news that the Liberal Democrats have slumped to single figures in the latest opinion polls. Their current nine per cent standing would give them just 11 seats in the Commons – a return to the old jokes about taxicabs and telephone boxes. It reflects the proper sense of outrage at the behaviour of Nick Clegg and his colleagues – ditching any policy necessary to stay in the government, and revelling in the perks and trappings. It reflects too Cameron’s Saddam-like use of the Lib Dems as human shields (‘after you, Danny…’), fronting up every piece of Tory thuggery and vandalism. The unknown perpetrator of what the Wandsworth Guardian calls a ‘campaign of hate’ against the Putney offices of the Liberal Democrats, daubing ‘whores’, ‘fakes’ and latterly ‘Tory Fags’ (no sniggering at the back) on their windows, speaks for tens of thousands of people who voted Lib Dem.

All those students, or well-meaning people in the voluntary sector, or teachers, who voted for the Liberal Democrats have watched their cherished policies torn into little pieces by Huhne, Clegg, Cable, Alexander and the rest. People in independent-minded Lewes, who believed they were voting for a radical maverick, ended up with a junior minister in a government prosecuting a war in Afghanistan, cutting local voluntary groups, and putting rail fares up. Yes, even Norman Baker, the man who believes Dr Kelly was murdered, has swapped his high horse for a ministerial car. (more…)

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We should be punishing the Tories in local elections, says Edward Carlsson Browne

10/08/2010, 12:30:49 PM

The jury is still out on new Labour’s worst mistake in government. It could be the Iraq War, tuition fees, 10p tax, regulating the banks or failing to call an election in 2007. It could be that the Blair-Brown feud was allowed to continue for a decade. Those who believe the rot started early might argue that it was when we decided to accept a donation from Bernie Ecclestone.

In my opinion, it was none of these things. I believe that the greatest failing of the last government, in which Blair and Brown were both culpable, was that they stood by as our ranks were decimated in local government. Our support fell every year until 2009, when we reached our lowest number of seats since local government was reorganised in 1973. Our slight rebound this year was our second worst result in this time.

Even in the 1980s, when the party was less popular than gonorrhea and ward meetings were slightly more painful, we could win local elections. We were ahead in national equivalent vote share estimates for half of that decade. Since 2006, we haven’t hit 30% in the same measure. (more…)

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Co-operative models will improve services and strengthen the resilience of our communities, argues Councillor Steve Reed

21/07/2010, 11:26:56 AM

For the Coalition, localism means little more than trying to localise the blame for their decision to make the cuts faster and deeper than is necessary or wise.  The threat to our communities places a responsibility on Labour councils to try and strengthen our community’s resilience to withstand the damaging cuts.  While we must campaign against unfair cuts, we must also show that we are able to turn our values into new ideas that offer the hope of a fairer future. 

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The Tories’ lust for cuts reveals itself in local government already, says Amanda Ramsay

07/06/2010, 02:16:47 PM

When David Cameron coined the phrase “Big Society”, no one really seemed to know what he meant. But take a look at new-style Tory Councils and see how the Prime Minister was sign-posting a well thought-out, ideological intention to take government back to laissez-faire, sink or swim politics, where the state sits back and does the very bare minimum.

It is at local government level that Cameron’s cuts will be fought out.  So expect to hear free-market buzz words like “outsourcing”, “privatisation”, “small government” and “consumer choice” as key parts of Cameron’s Conservative vision for municipal governance.

No wonder we’ve heard so much from John Redwood since the Conservatives formed their coalition with free-market zealots Nick Clegg and David Laws. (more…)

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