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LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE: COMPOSITE 31 (LOCAL DEMOCRACY)

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This conference congratulates the leadership, candidates and party workers on the excellent 1997 election campaign ...
This conference congratulates the leadership, candidates and party workers on the excellent 1997 election campaign and its outcome.

Conference notes that the Tory years have left a legacy which has undermined local democracy and reduced the ability of local authorities to serve effectively local communities. Conference believes that Labour must restore local democracy and allow local people to take more decisions on their own behalf.

This conference is of the view that democratically accountable local government is a crucial element in British democracy and that decentralisation of power rather than centralisation should be taking place. The previous attacks on local government, coupled with the centralisation of power in Whitehall, has led to a dangerous erosion of democracy.

Conference:

a. welcomes the move towards greater local autonomy with the legislation in progress towards creating assemblies in Scotland and Wales and elected mayors in the big cities and a directly elected authority for London;

b. welcomes the Labour government's spirit of positive partnership and consultation with all stakeholders in local government, including trade unions, and the Labour government's commitment to replace the failure of Compulsory Competitive Tendering with a new duty for local authorities to ensure the best value for money producing possible financial savings while providing cost-effective services in the interest of the local community.

Direct service organisations have shown a capacity to develop initiatives which have continued to deliver high-quality services to the communities they serve, despite deliberate politically-motivated intervention by the last government.

Conference is aware of many of the success stories in local authority DSO provision, and these examples should be utilised as models of good practice for the process of best value to succeed. The most progressive and successful have managed to balance the demand of high-quality service delivery to communities while, at the same time, using their best endeavours to maintain a motivated and skilled workforce to deliver said services.

Conference calls upon the government to institute a thorough review of the Local Authority (Goods & Services) Act 1970 and to review restrictions on council trading and to liberalise the rules to allow efficient and innovative councils to compete to deliver services.

Conference calls upon the new Labour government to take steps to make local quangos accountable to the electorate.

This conference notes the last government's totally unfair approach to local and joint authority funding through their discredited calculations of standard spending assessments, which put the lives of the public and firefighters at risk, and underfunded social services, education, policing and other locally accountable services, takes account of the fact that the current method of calculating the standard spending assessment fails to meet the needs of our modern day fire service, and to provide care and support for refugees and asylum seekers, and calls on the government urgently to review and modify the local government standard spending assessment (SSA) mechanism to correct the inequalities generated by the system as implemented by the previous Conservative government.

Conference calls on the new Labour government to reassess local government finance, to ensure that the SSA allocated for education is adequate to fund the national curriculum, and renew its commitment to:

a. the expansion of social housing through a phased release of capital receipt reserves;

b. consult as widely as possible on the proposals to return business rates to local control, including the proper contribution of unused urban land to the business rate:

c. review the burden of council tax;

d. abolish the unfair capping system.

Conference is concerned that the development of a bidding culture can distort priorities in providing appropriate services for local people.

Conference calls on all local, unitary, metropolitan and county councils to incorporate an anti-poverty strategy into council plans as soon as possible and urges the new Labour government to improve the efficiency of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, allowing local authorities and the police greater flexibility.

Conference congratulates the public sector trade unions for negotiating a single status deal, including agreement for all local government workers to be paid more than o4 an hour. This will improve conditions for more than 750,000 low-paid workers, the majority of whom are part-time women workers.

Moved by: GMB-GMW

Seconded by: Stoke-on-Trent North CLP

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