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KENNEDY QUESTIONS LABOUR PLANS

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Labour's public sector reforms are a mess and it does not have a clear idea of what it wants to do next, Liberal De...
Labour's public sector reforms are a mess and it does not have a clear idea of what it wants to do next, Liberal Democrat Party leader Charles Kennedy warned.
Speaking at the Local Government Association's conference last week, Mr Kennedy attacked the government's record so far. He cited the part-privatisation of the London Underground and National Air Traffic Services, and the fragmentation of the education system.
'Now the government tells us it has plans to 'involve the private sector' in the provision of services, principally in the NHS and education system,' he said. 'But what does that mean? What exactly are they proposing?'
He said: 'My biggest problem with the government's plans is that I don't think it knows what they are. To me, they look like a shambles. Haphazard, unplanned, piecemeal. And that's no way to run public services in this country.'
Mr Kennedy called on local government to be ready with a response when Labour did reveal its plans. He told delegates to put pressure on the government now in anticipation of a local government white paper in the autumn.
He suggested the paper include 'major reforms to help local government', for example, increasing the level of funding raised locally from its current level of 18%. He recommended a local income tax as the fairest way of doing this.
A 'vicious circle' relegated local government to the sidelines, he said.
'Many members of the public feel there is no point voting in local elections because councils have so little power.
'Central government argues there is no legitimacy in giving local authorities more power, because so few people vote. This chicken and egg scenario must be broken by central government.'
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