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DOBSON TELLS IRRV OF LABOUR'S 'TOUGH NEW RULES AND INCENTIVES'

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Labour's proposals for local government command the broad support of the professionals in local government finance,...
Labour's proposals for local government command the broad support of the professionals in local government finance, shadow environment secretary Frank Dobson told the IRRV conference in Brighton this morning.

'We consulted widely on our local government policy document before we put the final proposals to the party conference last week.

'During that consultation, both the IRRV and CIPFA indicated broad support for our document. It was approved without dissent at the Labour party conference so it's good to know that the document I drafted commands the support of both the local finance professionals and the Labour party.

'One or other professional body, and best of all both, have supported our proposals to reform the council tax to make it fairer, to get rid of capping but retain some fall-back powers, to return the business rate to local control, to replace compulsory competitive tendering with a tough and more effective system for quality services and local performance programmes which would set standards council have to meet.

'Throughout the whole of this century, governments have taken powers and influence away from local councils starting with the 1906 Liberal government deciding not to pay pensions through local councils.

'Labour nationalised gas and electricity in the 1940s and the Tories nationalised the locally-owned water industry in the early 1970s and since 1979 have passed over 200 acts of parliament taking power and influence from local councils.

'The policies Labour adopted last week mark the first example in the 20th century of a party committing itself to return power and influence to local communities and their elected representatives. What we also intend to do is stop the endless central government interference in the day-to-day affairs of every council. This was justified by the government as part of their effort to crack down on 'maverick' councils.

'It never achieved this proclaimed objective - the scandals in Lambeth and Westminster continued, year in, year out. Instead, every council has been hounded at every turn and vast amounts of money have been wasted.

'Labour's proposals are designed to liberate councils from day-to-day interference by central government but to come down like a ton of bricks on councils which get really out of line. With a Labour government, persistent high costs, poor performance or wrongdoing will not be tolerated. Persistent failure will result in the secretary of state sending in a management team to take over a failing service and put it to rights.

'Most councils will never face that sort of action. Most will continue doing a good job. But all will be operating under tough new rules and incentives designed to secure better performance and value for money, service by service and year on year.'

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