Bring a new politics into local democracy

stop the cutsThe following statement has been issued by the Labour Representation Committee

On the basis of a hasty and highly selective reading of the letter sent to Labour councils by Jeremy Corbyn, together with John McDonnell and Jon Trickett, some right-wingers are claiming that the leadership has endorsed their existing strategy towards implementing the cuts. Likewise some sectarian elements on the left have already begun to accuse the leadership of having made a demoralising climb-down on the issue.

In fact, it is a mistake to see this letter as closing down the debate. Instead, it represents an implicit critique of the failure of the previous leadership – under then Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Hilary Benn – for failing to ensure that Labour councils across the country engaged “community campaigners, council staff who are under duress as a result of Tory spending cuts, local citizens and others in defending local services”. The letter opens up the whole question of introducing a new and more overtly political approach instead. Continue reading

Agreeing with Harry Phibbs on accountability in local governemnt

Joe Quimby, Mayor of Springfield, from the Simpsons by Matt GroeningFar be it for me to agree with Harry Phibbs (and possibly even Eric Pickles), but it seems that, on this one issue at least, I do. Harry Phibbs was the man who got the Federation of Conservative Students shut down for being too right-wing but is now the local government editor of ConservativeHome and a right-wing Tory councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham. His column today reports the decision by Eric Pickles to consult on whether the Cabinet system on Rotherham Council should be completely abolished, and the council return to the Committee system.

The current structure of local government today is a legacy of Tony Blair similar to the legacy he left of a remodelled New Labour party – authoritarian and devoid of accountability. You might describe the relationship that evolved in his reign between Parliament and the Executive in the same way. Continue reading

Britain needs good jobs and a pay rise

BNAPRBritain needs a pay rise, not just to bring relief to hard-pressed workers, but also to drive a sustainable economic recovery.

That’s the message from the latest research and is particularly relevant to our members in Scottish local government, who are being balloted on industrial action over pay from next week. Their pay is the lowest, even across the hard pressed public sector, as they are asked to keep public services going against all the odds.

A TUC study on the living wage showed that women earn just 66p for every pound earned by men working full-time (which is a pay gap of 34.2%). One of the main reasons for this huge gender pay divide is the large concentration of women doing low-paid, part-time work. This has led to a majority of women working part-time earning less than the living wage in over 50 local authority areas across Britain. Continue reading

How not to write about Rotherham

Rotherham Magistrates CourtSexual violence against women and girls comes in all skin colours, all languages, all forms of religious belief. One would hope its tacit acceptance by institutions laying claim to the protection of the most vulnerable lies in the distant past. But the report into the institutional silence, if not silencing of the victims of a Pakistani-descent paedophile gang shows this appalling abuse is not part of our uncomfortable yesterdays. It’s contemporary, it’s here, and lives are still being broken by sexual predators who rape children with seeming impunity. Continue reading

NEC elections: nominations show a shift to the left

NEC electionsThe close of nominations for candidates for election to Labour’s national executive revealed that the Left has improved its position compared with two years ago, although fewer nominations were received – 1377 altogether from 288 constituency parties (CLPs) compared with 2105 from 431 CLPs in 2012.  Overall, candidates backed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) again received an absolute majority — 54% of nominations, 1% up, whilst independent candidates received 14%, up 3%.

However, unlike in 2012 when there was a single right-wing slate of six candidates, this time there were two partial slates with only 5 candidates altogether (Progress backed only its own two candidates, whilst Labour First backed its own three, the Progress two and independent Johanna Baxter. The Labour First preferred combination (it remains unclear whether this will now be agreed by the Blairite purists at Progress) was backed by only 8 CLPs whilst 37 supported all six left candidates. However, this situation means it is fairer to look at individual candidates nominations as a proportion of those CLPs making nominations. Continue reading