Labour is proud to stand on its record in local and national government. Over the last year the British people have begun to experience the benefits of having national and local government working together.
In our general election manifesto we said 'education will be our number one priority' and locally and nationally we are delivering. We have launched a new deal for schools - tackling the backlog of Tory disrepair - and we have given an extra£1 billion for local schools. We have promised to raise educational standards and we are delivering. We have made it easier to dismiss failing teachers. We are refusing to let failing schools drift along. By September 1998 for the first time there will be a guaranteed nursery place for every four-year-old whose parent wants it. And we have allocated£22 million to make progress on our pledge to reduce class sizes for 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds.
In our manifesto we said 'we will get 250,000 young unemployed off benefit and into work' and we are delivering. At the start of April the Labour government's New Deal for the young and long term unemployed went nationwide. Already Labour councils are leading the way in helping to end the scourge of long term unemployment and the waste of youth unemployment.
Our manifesto said 'we will be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime' and we are delivering. The Labour government's Crime and Disorder Bill will mark a new departure in dealing with youth crime and tackling disorder on the streets. It will give Labour councils the powers they have asked for to deal with disorderly and anti-social neighbours.
Our manifesto said 'we will clean up politics [and] decentralise power throughout the United Kingdom' and we are delivering. We have set out tough new standards in local government, have published plans for radical reform of local elections and on 7 May are asking Londoners to endorse a new beginning for city-wide government.
Our manifesto said 'we will safeguard our environment and develop an integrated transport policy to fight congestion and pollution' and we are delivering. Labour has provided a£500 million boost to public transport over the next two years. We have increased government funding to councils for their transport packages from£79 million last year to£85 million this year with special provision for walking, cycling and public transport. And we have set out our proposals for a public private partnership designed to secure£7 billion of investment in the London Underground over the next 15 years.
Government is about hard choices and priorities. Locally and nationally, step by step, we are delivering on our pledges to make Britain better. The new Labour government is delivering the things that matter to people and is proud to do so in partnership with local councils. With this government there will be no return to the 18 years of sterile conflict between the centre and the localities that marked out the period of Tory rule.
MAKING BRITAIN BETTER
Labour councils are working with the government to build a better Britain step by step. Highlighted below are several examples of councils' positive partnership with the Labour government.
'education is our number one priority'
Primary school class sizes
The Tories say class size doesn't matter. Labour recognises the boost smaller classes give to children in the early years.
In London Labour councils have the best record of keeping class sizes down in the crucial early years.
The Audit Commission's performance indicators show Tower Hamlets is the best performing London council when it comes to primary school class sizes. The proportion of primary school children in classes with under 30 pupils in Tower Hamlets is 88 per cent. The London average is 63 per cent.
Nine Labour councils are above the average - Tower Hamlets, Lewisham, Southwark, Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Camden, Haringey, Newham and Ealing.
There are no Tory councils and only one Lib Dem council above the average. The worst-performing London council is Lib Dem-controlled Kingston-upon-Thames.
Outside London, the best councils are all Labour controlled - Gateshead (79 per cent), Wirral (73 per cent) and Sunderland (72 per cent).
Labour councils have the best record when it comes to early years education.
Based on the proportion of under-5s attending local authority maintained schools, eight out of the top ten are Labour-controlled.
These are Knowsley, North Tyneside, Trafford, Tower Hamlets, St Helens, Salford, South Tyneside and Wolverhampton.
There are no Tory or Lib Dem councils in the top ten.
North Tyneside's Riverside Early Years Training Centre combines:
- Two 50 place nurseries open from 7.30am to 6pm for children aged 3 months to 5 years. A Nursery Teacher ensures early learning opportunities
- are maximised, particularly for 3 and 4 year olds.
- a 24 place out of school scheme providing care at the end of the school day for children from local primary schools.
- the Young Mothers Unit enables girls to continue education while their babies are cared for. Staff in the Unit provide advice, support and training in parenting skills alongside midwives and health visitors.
- respite and assistance to parents under stress in the neighbouring Meadowell Estate
- training in nursery nursing and childcare in partnership with North Tyneside College and an Early Childhood Studies degree in collaboration with the University of Newcastle
- a 120 place lecture theatre with seminar, restaurant and residential facilities.
Wigan schools, with the LEA in partnership, have built on their long-standing commitment to work experience and links with industry. Flexible use of work-related elements at key stage 4 has increased motivation, attendance and attainment. In Pemberton High School, the percentage of school leavers without qualifications has fallen from 10% to 2%, and truancy has dropped by nearly three-quarters.
The introduction of work related projects has meant that:
- pupils are working towards NVQs alongside adults in industry, building their self-esteem
- pupils understand the relevance of school to future work and learning
- opportunities for the professional development of teachers have increased
- pupils who were underachieving, or becoming disaffected, have gained new motivation.
Leeds City Council has developed an approach called Families of Schools.
Schools work collaboratively, and with their partners, to review performance, produce a family development plan with specific targets, share good practice and develop innovative projects to raise levels of achievement. The education service works with families of schools to negotiate improvement targets. Schools in a family support each other in a range of initiatives, such as the Leeds Literacy Pledge, which has already achieved remarkable improvements in primary pupils reading ability.
In partnership with the Training and Enterprise Council, Kirklees has provided each school with tailored information setting out the progress made. Support is provided to each school to help use the information to focus attention on key developments. In many schools the linking of overall targets with expectations agreed with each child has made the approach particularly powerful. Computer links with schools assist with exchange of information.
Kirklees is participating in the national benchmarking initiative in primary education. Its scheme has allowed each school to see the range of achievements of its children set against figures for schools working in similar contexts. With help from LEA staff, schools facing similar challenges are brought together to focus on strategies and planning for improvement.
'we will rebuild the NHS'
Under the Tories every winter saw the health service slip into an ever deeper crisis. The Labour government could not solve all the problems of the health service in a few months but it was determined to improve management and co-ordination, as well as boost spending, to halt the chaos.
Labour provided an extra£300 million to the NHS to relieve pressure on hospitals over the winter period. Partnership with local councils was the at the heart of this initiative.
In local communities, this extra funding has provided much needed help for patients and health workers.
North Tyneside Council set up a community rehabilitation service in co-operation with the local NHS Trust. This has provided more nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and GP sessions in a new facility at a local authority care home.
It means that patients can be discharged earlier and reduces pressure on acute hospital beds in the local area.
Health Action Zones
Health Action Zones are a key part of Labour's plan to modernise the NHS.
One of the first areas to be declared a Health Action Zone was the East End of London covering Hackney, Labour-led Newham and Labour-led Tower Hamlets.
They bring together people to improve the health of local people, particularly in areas of deprivation and poor health.
having a job is one of the best ways to improve individual health. The HAZ will target job opportunities for disadvantaged young people working in partnership with the local authorities, New Deal agencies, local employers (including NHS Trusts) and voluntary groups.
Another HAZ is to be established in Luton. There the Labour council is to work with the NHS to tackle the problems caused by deprivation in what was always treated by the Tories as just another prosperous South East town.
'we will get 250,000 young unemployed off benefit and into work'
The New Deal is Labour's flagship welfare-to-work programme. The Tories said the windfall tax that is financing it was illegal. The Lib Dems said it was irrelevant. But Labour councils are actively working with the government on getting Britain off welfare and into work.
The City Pride Partnership, covering the Labour councils of Manchester, Salford, Tameside and Trafford, is delivering a New Deal programme which will provide more than 500 jobs for young unemployed people in the local area.
As well as waged employment, the partnership will provide personal development and skills and vocation training for young people, and support and assistance for employers.
Rotherham council is involved in a New Deal partnership with the local Employment Service to provide jobs for young people in areas such as recycling, energy conservation and as countryside rangers.
More than 140 local employers have signed up for the New Deal in Rotherham and in the first two months alone, 46 young people took up job placements.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne council have a£28 million pound Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) designed to complement the New Deal.
This multi-agency partnership shows how local authorities can work collaboratively at the local level to tackle social exclusion.
we will be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime'
Labour councils have led the way in forging effective partnerships with the police, businesses and the local communities to tackle crime and disorder.
In Coventry, the council has created a pioneering city centre management scheme that led to a 30% fall in crime in just two years (1993-5). Measures include a ban on drinking in unauthorised public areas and appointing city centre assistants to liaise with the police and traders to prevent crime and help create a safer city centre.
In Kings Cross, Camden and Islington councils have joined with the Metropolitan Police, local residents and businesses to regenerate the area and raise the quality of life for all who work and live in the area.
In Wigan, crime against school properties fell by a third and school burglaries halved over a three-year period following the introduction of a Schoolwatch scheme.
And the Labour government is strengthening these arrangements to ensure councils and the police work together in every area. Partnerships will be obliged to carry out an audit of local problems and set targets to reduce crime and disorder.
Anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods
Labour is giving local authorities and the police new powers to tackle the blight of criminal anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods. It builds on the excellent work done by Labour councils in this field.
In Manchester, the city council has included a new clause in tenancy agreements to control nuisance behaviour, and regularly uses injunctions to deal with problem households. The council also operates a 24 hour Nuisance Response Team to provide support for victims, help write witness statements and give evidence in serious cases.
In Southwark, the council has received awards for its pioneering witness protection scheme for victims of racial harassment and attacks.
In Gateshead, the council has established a Tenancy Enforcement Team to work with the police to tackle criminal anti-social behaviour on its estates. It includes an anonymous phone line for complainants, as well as concentrated action to target the minority of families causing trouble.
TORIES - still trying to turn the clock back
While Labour can point with pride to its record in local government the Conservative record is shameful. In Parliament the Tories have opposed Labour's initiatives to increase investment in education, blown hot and cold on the plans for a Mayor for London and other major cities across England, opposed decentralisation to Scotland and Wales and resisted the creation of new regional economic powerhouses. Hunt Bill
Their record nationally is mirrored in their behaviour locally. In government the Tories were the party dedicated to serving the interests of the privileged few and not the many. They are the party that lies about tax.
Their local record shows them to be the party that wants to turn the clock back.
In Essex the Tories took control of the county council on 1 April as a result of boundary changes. The new leader of the council, Paul White, is also leader of the Conservative Group in the Local Government Association and so the leading Conservative councillor in England and Wales. While Paul White speaks for Conservative local government, the Tory record in Essex speaks for itself:
- Spending on education has been cut to£3 million below the government's standard spending level.
- The Tories abolished free bus passes for 16-19 year olds in favour of charging up to£400 a year for students to travel to and from college - despite an extra£27 million channelled into Essex by the Labour Government.
- Social services have seen spending cut by£8 million.
- Discretionary grants for 16 - 19-year-olds have been abolished - where music and drama students used to get£4500 of discretionary grant and£4500 of matching lottery funding now they get nothing.
- Funding for music education has been slashed. Where Harlow Music Schools used to get over£70,000 a year, now they get just£22,000.
- The Tories did increase funding in one area - roads.
In Barnet the Tories say they will cut the council tax and yet they propose a huge number of new spending initiatives:
- A new single sex school
- More single sex classes in existing schools
- A new primary school
- More specialisation in schools
- More money for school repairs
- New grants to Monken Hadley Common
- Faster roads repairs
- Improved street cleaning
- Faster graffiti removal
- More rubbish dumps
- More domestic aids
- Faster community care procedures
- New grants to the North London Hospice
- More CCTV in parks and more patrols
- Longer library opening hours
- All road humps to be removed
- Fees for residents parking reduced
- Police to be offered three new stations by the council
Clearly Barnet Tories have not learned the lesson from the general election: no voter trusts a Tory promise on tax and spending.
Richard Ottaway, Tory spokesman on London, told the Commons he was 'proud' of Westminster Conservatives.
- Westminster Tories sold off council housing and concentrated resources in marginal wards with the sole purpose of gerrymandering the 1990 elections. In January 1998 Dame Shirley Porter and Councillor David Weeks were surcharged£27 million after losing a case in the High Court. David Weeks remained a Councillor in Westminster.
- Westminster Tories sold off public cemeteries to private developers for 15p.
And in April 1998 Westminster Tories voted to:
- Cut£500,000 from schools budget - a loss of£10,000 for every school
- cut£214,000 from discretionary grants for students
- increased the cost of school meals to raise£15,000
- Tories were judged by the District Auditor to have acted unlawfully in selling off council properties. Westminster Tories modelled their unlawful policy on Wandsworth.
- In September 1996 the Local Government Ombudsman found three Conservative councillors guilty of maladministration in connection with a businessman who made a contribution to the Conservative party and subsequently obtained a planning approval.
- Two Conservative councillors who gave evidence to the Ombudsman against their colleagues were initially deselected by Brent Conservatives only to be reimposed by Conservative Central Office on the basis the selection committee consisted of 'non-neutral councillors'[29-01-98 Wembley Observer].
Once in office the Tories let power go straight to their heads:
- Tory Councillor Peter Martindale was sacked by Westminster Conservatives for disagreeing with a redevelopment of public baths into an exclusive health club
[03-04-97 Evening Standard]
- Redbridge Tories refused to speak at a public meeting over£1.27 million pension overpayments to council employees because BBC TV cameras were present. The overpayments - ruled unlawful by the District Auditor - were made when the Tories ran the council.
A deselected Brent Tory is demanding the local party be investigated by Conservative Central Office. Former Brent Tory Councillor Chunilal Chavda, now standing as a Conservative Independent, has accused Brent Tories of misuse of public money, racial discrimination and abuse of power. [Chunilal Chavda Election Address 04-98]
Liberal Democrats and Local Government
'Where Liberal Democrats have power, we do things differently'
Paddy Ashdown MP
5 February 1997
Mr Ashdown is right: Liberal Democrat councillors do do things differently. They do not share Labour's priority of education. They do not believe in anything except power. In Mr Ashdown's Somerset they call for more spending on public transport, in Sheffield they attack the City Council's Supertram project.
In opposition the Liberal Democrats shirk all responsibility:
The constitutional role of an opposition group is to oppose and not martyr itself trying to produce a budget which cuts different services or trying to save the ruling group's bacon.
Defending your Budget, ALDC Note, 16 October 1997
The Liberal Democrats took that advice to heart. They made no coherent alternative Budget proposals in:
- Derbyshire CC
- Durham CC
- Northumberland CC
- Staffordshire CC
- NE Lincs
- Milton Keynes
- Stockton on Tees
- Telford and Wrekin
And where the Liberal Democrats do make budget proposals their priorities are clearly not those of the people.
In Oldham and Southwark the Liberal Democrats proposed budgets that would have cut education spending. In Torbay the ruling Liberal Democrat group have done just that.
The Liberal Democrats pride themselves on their record in local government. But the reality is different. Life under Liberal Democrat control means bureaucracy and a 'jobs worth' attitude at best; cuts and wasted spending at worst.
Cheltenham Borough Council
- District Auditor ruled Liberals acted unlawfully in transferring£1.65 million available to spend to a reserve [Mar-98]
- Liberals refused residents street lighting due to£3,000 cost of laying a new cable [Apr-96]
- Liberals closed a rubbish tip to save money - but left the town without a tip [Mar-98]
- Liberals deferred a decision on spending£900,000 for council house maintenance [Mar-98]
- Liberals banned a Dental Health Promotion vehicle from High Street during National Smile Week [Apr-96]
- Liberals decided Cheltenham had too many pigeons - the national symbol of Cheltenham. Preparations were made for a cull. [Apr-96]
- Liberals banned a stall from the High Street selling turkey rolls when they judged it was not festive enough for Christmas
- Liberals - who claim to be the true 'green' party - felled 40 trees and instead erected an 8ft wall.
[all reports from The Gloucestershire Echo]
Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames
- Liberals voted to cut education budget by£1.5 million [Mar-97]
- Liberals would not guarantee the 5.7% rise in spending from the Government for schools would go into the education budget. They relented only after being challenged by David Blunkett [Oct-97]
- Liberals would only bid for£28,000 from the£22 million Labour set aside to tackle large class sizes [Mar-98]
- Liberals voted to close 2 adult education centres and increased fees in remaining centres [Jan-96]
- Liberals - now attacking Labour over welfare reform - cut£24,000 clothing grants to low income families [Nov-96]
Liberals cut 50 jobs including entire leisure department that incorporates museum service [Jan-96]
- Liberals wanted Kingston to opt out of the NHS and commission health care themselves [Jul-94]
- Liberals' anti-monarchist council leader urged abolition of the monarchy and dropping 'Royal' from Kingston's official title [Sep-94]
- Liberals awarded cash bonus estimated of£6,000 on top of salary for chief executive on his departure [Aug-95]
[all reports courtesy of the Surrey Comet]
'I don't believe MPs should have second jobs.
They need to be full time and accountable.'
Paddy Ashdown Election Communication 1997
Bob Russell MP (Colchester) and Andrew Stunnell MP (Stockport) are standing for re-election as councillors in local elections on 7 May.