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Labour's offer under the microscope

Keith Cooper
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The party’s local government policy looks like a mixed bag

Labour’s local government policies are like the proverbial buses. After an age-long wait for one to arrive, several turn up all at once.

This seems to be the year in which the party has finally decided to deliver some ideas of discernible substance.

In a series of speeches, shadow cabinet members have indicated how local government fits into Labour’s electoral campaign.

As we outline in the special feature, the content of this policy bag is mixed, with potential for both pleasure and pain.

On the plus side, shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn clearly sees local government as fundamental to the nation’s democracy.

He values the role of the council chief, unlike his Conservative counterpart Eric Pickles.

And Labour will not distinguish between urban and rural areas when devolving power and funding down to local government, an accusation commonly levelled at the coaltion.

Councils will also be allowed to join central government in commissioning back-to-work schemes, giving them a much-needed role in tailoring the national Work Programme to their communities’ specific needs.

Labour’s policy chief Jon Cruddas, however, is equally clear that councils should brace themselves for more cuts if the party wins the election.

And the council tax ‘referendum ’, which has given MT Pickles some control over council tax increases, will be left in place.

So whatever happens in 2015, it seems one thing will be a certainty.

Under Labour, as under the coalition, the sector can expect to be squeezed from all sides.

Keith Cooper, freelance journalist

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