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More Labour fudging on localism

In the current issue Municipal Journal two Labour leadership contenders, Andy Burnham and David Miliband set out their stalls.

David Miliband says:

I am being backed by more than 100 Labour councils and Labour group leaders in major towns and cities across the UK, including Birmingham, Newcastle, Norwich, Bolton, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Peterborough, Scarborough, Sunderland, Telford and Wolverhampton – key battlegrounds for us at the next election.

If elected, I am committed to building a strong two-way relationship between councillors and the leadership of the party, both in and out of government.

I would have Labour’s leader in local government in the shadow cabinet. This is just a first step in making sure the relationship between councillors and MPs is strong.

Often Labour councillors do believe in localism. It would be a curious motivation for anyone to say: "I want to be a local councillor not because I want to decide anything but because I want to see at close quarters how Council officers implement their instructions from Whitehall." So there might be such a person allowed to jon the Miliband Shadow Cabinet. He or she might even suggest Labour should support the Pickles Revolution. They might be listened to politely or told to shut up. But the real problem is that Labour has a belief in a strong, centralised, meddling, bureaucratic state that can not be abandoned. It is it's irreducible core. It is in the fibre of its being. It's DNA. Letting a councillor sit in on shadow cabinet meetings is tokenism, a gesture.

Andy Burnham sounds even less keen on localism. He says:

I have asked Cllr Peter Smith, the leader of Wigan BC, to lead a ‘local government task force’ to examine in detail how we best devolve powers from Whitehall to local authorities, so that we can work together while delivering regional and local outcomes.

The task force will also consider how we can strengthen and improve the relationship between the national party, our policy-making processes and our local government representatives.

So he is all for localism but we would have to do what he thinks will deliver the "regional and local outcomes" he demands. "Working together" is code for the thousands of regulations, targets, directives and demands for data spewing from Whitehall to continue.





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