Labour in local government: making Britain better
step by step
Labour is proud to stand in these local elections on its record in national and local government. Before last year's general election we said Labour councils were already working to build a new Britain. Today we can see the benefits of having national and local government working together to deliver on the people's priorities.
In our general election manifesto we said "education will be our number one priority" and we are delivering. We have launched a new deal for schools - tackling the backlog of Tory disrepair - and we have transferred an extra £835 million to local education authorities. We have promised to raise educational standards and we are delivering. We have made it easier to dismiss failing teachers. We are refusing to let failing schools drift along and we are putting a new emphasis on basic literacy and numeracy skills.
In our manifesto we said "we will get 250,000 young unemployed off benefit and into work". At the start of April the government's New Deal for the young and long term unemployed went nationwide and already Labour councils are leading the way in helping to end the scourge of long term unemployment and the waste of youth unemployment.
Our manifesto said "we will rebuild the NHS" and our first task was to end the crisis culture that every winter left the health service struggling. Once again it was Labour councils that were in the fore of tackling the problems of bed blocking and inappropriate hospital admissions that so hamstrung the NHS under the Tories.
Our manifesto said "we will be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime" and we are delivering. The government's Crime and Disorder Bill will mark a new departure in dealing with youth crime and tackling disorder on the streets. It will give Labour councils the powers they have asked for when it comes to dealing with disorderly and anti-social neighbours.
Our manifesto said "we will clean up politics [and] decentralise power throughout the United Kingdom" and we are delivering. We have set out tough new standards in local government, have published plans for radical reform of local elections and on 7 May are asking Londoners to endorse a new beginning for city-wide government.
In short, the new Labour government is radical and reforming and is proud to work in partnership with local councils. With this government there will be no return to the 18 years of war against local government.
Labour councillors will not be regarded as electoral cannon fodder that can be simply discarded when the going gets tough: we are proud of our record in local government and below we list some of the reasons for that pride.
"education is our number one priority"
Primary school class sizes
Labour councils in London have a better record on primary school class sizes than Tory and Lib Dem councils.
According to performance indicators released recently by the Audit Commission, Tower Hamlets is the best performing London council when it comes to primary school class sizes. The proportion of primary school children in classes with under 30 pupils in Tower Hamlets is 88 per cent. The London average is 63 per cent.
Nine Labour councils are above the average - Tower Hamlets, Lewisham, Southwark, Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Camden, Haringey, Newham and Ealing.
There are no Tory councils above the average and only one Lib Dem council. The worst-performing London council is Lib Dem-controlled Kingston-upon-Thames.
For non-London authorities, the best councils are all Labour controlled - Gateshead (79 per cent), Wirral (73 per cent) and Sunderland (72 per cent).
Early years education
Labour councils have the best record when it comes to early years education.
Based on the proportion of under-5s attending local authority maintained schools, eight out of the top ten are Labour-controlled.
These are Knowsley, North Tyneside, Trafford, Tower Hamlets, St Helens, Salford, South Tyneside and Wolverhampton.
There are no Tory or Lib Dem councils in the top ten.
"we will rebuild the NHS"
Labour provided an extra £300 million to the NHS to relieve pressure on hospitals over the winter period.
In local communities, this extra funding has provided much needed help for patients and health workers.
North Tyneside Council set up a community rehabilitation service in co-operation with the local NHS Trust. This has provided more nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and GP sessions in a new facility at a Local Authority Care Home.
It means that patients can be discharged earlier and reduces pressure on acute hospital beds in the local area.
Health Action Zones
Health Action Zones are a key part of Labour's plan to modernise the NHS.
One of the first areas to be declared a Health Action Zone was the East End of London covering Hackney, Labour-led Newham and Labour-led Tower Hamlets.
They bring together people to improve the health of local people, particularly in areas of deprivation and poor health.
Having a job is one of the best ways to improve individual health so the HAZ will target job opportunities for disadvantaged young people working in partnership with the local authorities, new deal agencies local employers (including Trusts) and voluntary groups.
Another HAZ is to be established in Luton where the Labour council is to work with the NHS to tackle the problems caused by deprivation in what was always treated by the Tories as just another prosperous South East town.
"we will get 250,000 young unemployed off benefit and into work"
The New Deal is Labour's flagship welfare-to-work programme.
The City Pride Partnership, covering the Labour councils of Manchester, Salford, Tameside and Trafford, is delivering a New Deal programme which will provide more than 500 jobs for young unemployed people in the local area.
As well as waged employment, the partnership will provide personal development and skills and vocation training for young people, and support and assistance for employers.
Rotherham Council is involved in a New Deal partnership with the local Employment Service to provide jobs for young people in areas such as recycling, energy conservation and as countryside rangers.
More than 140 local employers have signed up for the New Deal in Rotherham and in the first two months alone, 46 young people took up job placements.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Council have a £28 million pound Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) designed to complement the New Deal.
This multi-agency partnership shows how local authorities can work collaboratively at the local level to tackle social exclusion.
TORIES - turning the clock back
The Conservative record in Local Government is shameful. In Parliament the Tories have opposed Labour's initiatives to increase investment in education, blown hot and cold on the plans for a Mayor for London and other major cities across England opposed decentralisation to Scotland and Wales and resisted the creation of new regional economic powerhouses.
Their record nationally is reflected in their behaviour locally. In government the Tories were the party dedicated to serving the interests of the privileged few and not the many. They are the party that lies about tax.
Their local record shows them to be the party that wants to turn the clock back.
In Essex the Tories took control of the county council on 1 April as a result of boundary changes. The new leader of the council, Paul White, is also leader of the Conservative Group in the Local Government Association. The Tory record in Essex speaks for itself:
· Spending on education has been cut to £3 million below the government's standard spending level.
· The Tories abolished free bus passes for 16-19 year olds in favour of charging up to £400 a year for students to travel to and from college - despite an extra £27 million channelled into Essex by the Labour Government.
· Social services have seen spending cut by £8 million.
· Discretionary grants for 16 - 19-year-olds have been abolished - where music and drama students used to get £4500 of discretionary grant and £4500 of matching lottery funding now they get nothing.
· Funding for music education has been slashed. Where Harlow Music Schools used to get over £70,000 a year, now they get just £22,000.
· The Tories did increase funding in one area - roads.
In Barnet the Tories say they will cut the council tax and yet they propose a huge number of new spending initiatives:
· A new single sex school
· More single sex classes in existing schools
· A new primary school
· More specialisation in schools
· More money for school repairs
· New grants to Monken Hadley Common
· Faster roads repairs
· Improved street cleaning
· Faster graffiti removal
· More rubbish dumps
· More domestic aids
· Faster community care procedures
· New grants to the North London Hospice
· More CCTV in parks and more patrols
· Longer library opening hours
· All road humps to be removed
· Fees for residents parking reduced
· Police to be offered three new stations by the council
It is clear that Barnet Tories have not learned the lesson from the general election: no voter trusts a Tory promise on tax and spending.
Richard Ottaway, Tory spokesman on London, told the Commons he was 'proud' of Westminster Conservatives.
· Westminster Tories sold off council housing and concentrated resources in marginal wards with the sole purpose of gerrymandering the 1990 elections. In January 1998 Dame Shirley Porter and Councillor David Weeks were surcharged £27 million after losing a case in the High Court. David Weeks remained a Councillor in Westminster.
· Westminster Tories sold off public cemeteries to private developers for 15p.
and in April 1998 Westminster Tories voted to:
· Cut £500,000 from schools budget -a loss of £10,000 for every school
cut £214,000 from discretionary grants for students
· increased the cost of school meals to raise £15,000
· Tories were judged by the District Auditor to have acted unlawfully in selling off council properties. Westminster Tories modelled their unlawful policy on Wandsworth.
· In September 1996 the Local Government Ombudsman found three Conservative councillors guilty of maladministration in connection with a businessman who made a contribution to the Conservative party and subsequently granted a planning application.
· Two Conservative councillors who gave evidence to the Ombudsman against their colleagues were initially deselected by Brent Conservatives only to be reimposed by Conservative Central Office on the basis the selection committee consisted of "non-neutral councillors"[29-01-98 Wembley Observer].
Tories in Local Government - From Extreme to Trivial
· Tory Councillor Peter Martindale was sacked by Westminster Conservatives for disagreeing with a redevelopment of public baths into an exclusive health club
[03-04-97 Evening Standard]
· Redbridge Tories refused to speak at a public meeting over £1.27 million pension overpayments to council employees because BBC TV cameras were present. The overpayments - ruled unlawful by the District Auditors - were made when the Tories ran the council.
· A deselected Brent Tory claims the local party is being investigated by Conservative Central Office. Former Brent Tory Councillor Chunilal Chavda, now standing as a Conservative Independent, has accused Brent Tories of misuse of public money, racial discrimination and abuse of power. [Chunilal Chavda Election Address 04-98]
Liberal Democrats and Local Government
"Liberal Democrat local councils are our party's most important showcase to the British people - demonstrating Liberal Democrat values, priorities and ideas in action"
Paddy Ashdown MP
(Press Release 25-03-96)
The Liberal Democrat's pride themselves on their record in local government. The reality is different. Life under Liberal Democrat control means bureaucracy and a "jobs worth" attitude at best and cuts and wasted spending at worst.
Cheltenham Borough Council
· £400,000 on 3 trains to travel around the Town centre [Mar-98]
· £230,000 a year on running the trains [Mar-98]
· £50,000 on traffic calming road humps which are too narrow and thus create a danger for cyclists when drivers drive between humps. Council now says "we haven't yet decided what to do" about problem. [Mar -98]
· £14,000 traffic calming roundabout which has restricted sight for cyclists [Dec-97]
· £2,000 replacing road bollards with road humps [Apr-96]
· £20,000 for 4 'elegant' bicycle stands for High Street and a further £1,200 for 12 others for other areas [Nov-97]
· District Auditor ruled Liberals acted unlawfully in transferring £1.65 million available to spend to a reserve [Mar-98]
· Liberals refused residents street lighting due to £3,000 cost of laying a new cable [Apr-96]
· Liberals closed a rubbish tip to save money - but left the town without a tip [Mar-98]
· Liberals deterred a decision on spending £900,000 for council house maintenance [Mar-98]
· Liberals banned a Dental Health Promotion vehicle from High Street during National Smile Week [Apr-96]
· Liberals decided Cheltenham had too many pigeons - the national symbol of Cheltenham. [Apr-96]
· Liberals banned a stall from the High Street selling turkey rolls as was not festive enough for Christmas
· Liberals - who claim to be the true 'green' party - felled 40 trees in place of erecting an 8ft wall
[all reports from The Gloucestershire Echo]
· Liberals voted to cut education budget by £1.5 million [Mar-97]
Liberals would not guarantee the 5.7% rise in spending limit from the Government for schools would go into the education budget. Relented only after being challenged by David Blunkett [Oct-97]
· Liberals would only bid for £28,000 from the £22 million Labour set aside to tackle large class sizes [Mar-98]
· Liberals voted to close 2 adult education centres and increased fees in remaining centres [Jan-96]
· Liberals - now attacking Labour over welfare reform - cut £24,000 clothing grants to low income families [Nov-96]
· Liberals cut 50 jobs including entire leisure department which incorporates museum service [Jan-96]
· Liberals wanted to opt out of NHS health care commissioning and do the job themselves [Jul-94]
· Liberals' anti-monarchist leader of the Council urged abolition of the monarchy and dropping 'Royal' from Kingston's official title [Sep-94]
· Liberals awarded cash bonus estimated of £6,000 on top of salary for chief executive on his departure [Aug-95]
[all reports courtesy of the Surrey Comet]
"I don't believe MPs should have second jobs.
They need to be full time and accountable."
Paddy Ashdown MP
Election Communication 1997
Bob Russell MP (Colchester) and Andrew Stunnell MP (Stockport) are standing for re-election as councillors in local elections on 7 May.