We should be shouting louder about our record in local government

Cross-posted to Progress Online.

If we are to win in May, we must win back the public’s trust in our ability to manage the economy.

History tells us that won’t be easy.

After the Winter of Discontent it took Labour four elections and eighteen years to regain power. After Black Wednesday, it was three defeats and eighteen years before the Tories were voted in again.

At the last election, Labour suffered a huge loss of trust in our ability to run the economy.

The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 was not caused by overspending on the NHS in England. But the Tories narrative – that the deficit is the sole product of Labour overspending has stuck.

There are many ways we should tackle this myth and our economic offer is obviously a big part of it. But one thing we should certainly do is shout louder about our record in local government.

Over the past four years local councils have been dealt a savage hand. In Lambeth our budget has been cut by 50%.

But rather than setting illegal budgets or hiking council tax, Labour councils have behaved responsibly, set about balancing the books and found new and innovative ways to do more with less.

In Lambeth we’ve changed our focus so we now look at the 50% of resources we do have, and how we can use that most effectively – rather than thinking only about the 50% we have lost.

It’s this approach that has allowed us to build the first new council homes in a generation and we will build 1,000 more over the next four years. A number of these will be at Somerleyton Road, where, rather than going into partnership with a private developer, the council has chosen to act as its own developer. This gives us more control over what is built so we can focus on building affordable homes and a thriving local community rather than making a profit. The homes will all be for rent and will be set up as a new housing cooperative to make sure tenancies and rents reflect what the community want.

Likewise, thanks to a pioneering new funding model we aim to protect the future of our libraries for years to come. We want to invest in a £10m endowment pot, which will generate around £400,000 per year to cover running costs.

There are countless examples of Labour councils elsewhere showing that our talk about delivering fairness in tough times is not an ambition – it’s a reality. Newham’s Workplace Scheme has helped get more than 17,000 local people into work in five years. Blackpool provides free breakfasts to all primary school children. 54 Labour Councils pay the Living wage.

The Autumn Statement confirmed that David Cameron and George Osborne have now failed every test and broken every promise they made on the economy. Borrowing is a staggering £219 billion more than he planned and working people are now £1,600 a year worse off on average.

As we approach the next election we have good reason to highlight our track record. After all countless Labour councils have succeeded where Cameron and Osborne have failed – by balancing the books, protecting the most vulnerable and keeping household bills down.


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