Party conference season is a bit like Glastonbury for politicians. Over the next month, all the major political parties will be holding their annual conference to set out the priorities for the year ahead. The Labour Party’s conference will be held this year in Liverpool, and I’m looking forward to a busy 4 days speaking at various events, meeting members and making the case for a more sustainable approach to funding our public services.
This conference I will be laying out Labour’s vision for Local Government and how a future Labour administration will repair the damage caused by years of austerity. In Tameside, the council has faced brutal cuts of almost £200 million, losing almost 70p for every £1 that we received in 2010. For too long, the funding for our councils and for our local public services has been neglected by central Government. Councillors from all parties now agree that how we fund our public services needs reform; but even as the Government’s own councils collapse into bankruptcy, they are refusing to acknowledge the problem. The BBC recently reported that 80% of the councils under the most financial strain are Tory-run. The funding crisis in our communities demands long term answers, but all we get from this Government are botched sticking-plaster solutions.
We will also be launching a major review of the planning system, to learn how we can make sure that all communities are part of the decisions that affect them. Roberta Blackman-Woods MP from my team in Parliament will be travelling the country to speak to planners, councillors and local people to learn what is good and bad in the current system, and what needs to be changed and how. The Commission will look to put people and communities back at the heart of planning, ensuring that planning decisions have proper democratic accountability, and are made in the public interest.
Austerity has created a hole in our public services that demands more from us than simply throwing money at the problem; it demands that we consider new ideas and new approaches. That is why under the next LabourGovernment, my department will increase the accountability, transparency and public control of our public services, including those operated by private companies; and will empower councils to to take a leadership role in shaping the communities they serve. We need to put local people at the core of how our public services are delivered..
Taken together we are planning some of the largest set of reforms to local government in generations. Rebuilding local government capacity and giving power back to communities – because they are your public services, and you are more important than profit.