Thinking about the alternative
What is a future Labour government going to do for local government?
Here we look at the debates which are taking place within the Labour movement.
Is the tide is turning against the scam that is privatisation? It’s certainly time to revive public ownership and the common good.
Interesting recent pieces on the issue:
THE TRAGEDY OF THE PRIVATE, THE POTENTIAL OF THE PUBLIC: A report by by Hilary Wainwright, Published by Public Services International and the Transnational Institute:
Some local government policy proposals for a future Labour government
It is our view if Labour in government is to enhance local government then it has to move away from its embrace of marketisation. We recognise that such a view goes against the ‘common sense’ of the neo-liberal consensus which dominates within the Party.
Yet we are also aware that there are many in the Labour Party who understand that Labour needs to take a different route one which rolls back neo-liberalism replacing it with one based on democratic accountability, and public service rather than private profit.
As part of building this alternative we reproduce an extract form a paper written by Dexter Whitfield (Director of European Services Strategy Unit) written for a recent London & Eastern Region, LP forum. Here Dexter put forward a set of policies which directly challenge the Neo-liberal consensus.
We welcome comments on this paper, either on specific points or on its overall approach.
1. A new emphasis on the concept of local government as a planner, provider and coordinator of local functions and services by significantly reducing the formation of separate national funding programmes and projects.
2. Reverse the increasing corporatisation of local government in which funding programmes and projects require the formation of companies and boards and instigate a process of consolidation and democratisation.
3. Rationalise the role of special projects, funding programmes and ‘independent’ corporate structures to focus on core funding and local decision-making.
4. Restructure Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to increase public sector representation and reinstate the role of local authorities in service provision.
Reform and innovation
1. A radical alternative strategy to reform local government in conjunction with local authorities, community organisations and trade unions.
2. New public management to replace neoliberal public management.
3. Reverse the fracturing and fragmentation of local government services through a continuous stream of projects and programmes, each with separate funding and corporate organisational structures. Coupled with devolution of power.
4. Re-establish public networks of services with increased choice and flexibility.
5. Abolition of commissioning with renewed emphasis on the integration of client and contractor functions.
6. Immediate evaluation of the effects, costs, methods and lessons from the whole place community budget programme.
7. Service user and staff/trade union engagement in the reform and improvement of public services, which should include all stages of the review, options appraisal, planning, service design and implementation stages.
8. Promote best practice reform with service reviews and audits, joint service improvement plans, with regular scrutiny, service user/community organisation and staff/trade union initiatives to redesign services.
9. Remove the ‘community right to challenge’ local authority service delivery or widen it to include all public sector contracts irrespective of the provider.
Services and functions
1. Continue government support for social enterprises, mutual and cooperatives in the voluntary and private sector, but exclude those that transfer services and functions out of the public sector.
2. Evaluate poor performing local government contracts and assess the feasibility of a return to public sector service delivery.
3. Reverse the process of creating markets in public services by limiting individual budgets to those who have high dependency on public services and by limiting competition regimes within public services.
4. Re-establish public networks of schools, hospitals and other services.
5. Restrict the sale of public assets, in particular the right to buy social housing and stock and estate transfers.
6. Establish a series of minimum standards for the design, funding, management, delivery and employment in public services.
1. Increase public infrastructure investment with a new contract that addresses design, sustainability and efficiency concerns.
2. Terminate the PF2 programme for local government and democratise the governance of existing PFI projects.
3. A new procurement and contractual arrangement for public investment should integrate the design, planning and delivery of public projects to strengthen coordination, enhance transparency, deliver efficiencies and minimise delays.
4. Well-resourced in-house bids should be standard together with full impact assessment at option appraisal, business case and contract award. This must require assessment of the economic impact on production and supply chains and the local/regional economy; and a full public cost analysis.
5. The procurement process should be democratised to enable service user/community organisations and staff/trade union involvement and full public scrutiny.
6. Comprehensive continued monitoring and scrutiny built into contract management.
1. End the public sector pay freeze with a plan to systematically restore public pay rates, particularly for low paid workers.
2. Reaffirm the value of trade union organising, representation and industrial relations frameworks in the public sector and ensure that those that have been reduced are immediately replaced.