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Labour's top councillors call for protection from cuts

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The councillors elected last month to Labour’s governing body have pledged to use their role to persuade the party’s leadership to shield councils from further cuts.

In an interview with LGC ahead of the Labour party conference in Manchester next week, Jim McMahon and Alice Perry said any further cuts to public spending should be made elsewhere, rather than in local government.

The pair were elected to the national executive committee in August, beating  Durham CC leader Simon Henig and Coventry City Council leader Ann Lucas to the two seats out of 33 on the committee that are reserved for councillors. The committee oversees the overall direction of the party and its policy-making process. 

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said a future Labour government would be unable to reverse spending cuts. But Cllr McMahon, who is also leader of the LGA’s Labour group and leader of Oldham MBC, said he would argue that councils should no longer bear the brunt of these cuts.

“It’s not a lost battle,” he said. “There’s a hell of a lot of money in public services and what we are saying is redistribution should happen across different public agencies.”

Asked how they would persuade Mr Miliband to rethink, Cllr McMahon said the best way was to show how local authorities and other bodies had worked together to make more efficient use of public money.

“People need to move away from protecting individual institutions,” he said. “We are all providing vital public services and we shouldn’t see one as more important or sacred than the other.”

Cllr Perry, an Islington councillor, said she and Cllr McMahon were “going to be very assertive and co-ordinated” in making the case for councils to be protected from cuts. “It depends how the party wants to react to that, but I think it’s important that councillors are given the recognition they deserve,” she said.

Cllr Perry’s campaign leaflet for the NEC election said that, if she was chosen, she would “insist that Labour’s manifesto have a clear election commitment to no further cuts in local government beyond those voted for by the Tory-led government in the 2015-16 budget year”.

Cllr McMahon also said he would lobby party colleagues to “make sure we follow through with the devolution agenda.”

He said he had “no issue” with Mr Miliband’s “personal commitment” to devolution.

“There’ll be no battle between Ed Miliband and local government, it’ll most likely be with Whitehall, the civil servants and professionals,” he said.

Cllr McMahon, who has taken on two major external roles as LGA Labour group leader and an NEC member, said he would not neglect his duties as Oldham MBC’s leader.

“My attention to detail here [in Oldham] is obsessive and anal and it annoys the hell out people,” he said.

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