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Labour in power: the progress made by Labour led local authorities

It has been a decade since a Labour PM occupied Number 10, it is likely to be another 5 before there is a chance to change that.

While the national picture is bleak, Labour are in power all over the country making changes where it matters. The often-unsung improvements, initiated by Labour councillors, need to be recognised to both share best practice and acknowledge the intrinsic role that local government will play in the path back to power.

Over 50% of the population in England and Wales live under a Labour Council or Labour Metro Mayor, with nearly 7,000 Labour councillors implementing innovative ideas with both hands tied behind their back. Without these community representatives willing to step up and shield our communities from the onslaught of Conservative cuts, many would be worse off.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have incessantly hacked bits of local authority services and slashed 60 pence out of every pound they previously received from central Government. What does this mean for the every day lives of British people? 900 vulnerable people a day being refused adult social care, a 165% increase in rough sleeping since 2010, and a 30% rise in the number of classrooms with 31 or more pupils.

With Tory austerity ripping apart communities and depriving councils of cash, cutting-edge Labour led councils are making a difference to people’s lives at the coalface.

While the pioneering achievements of Labour-lead councils’ number in their hundreds, which can be confirmed by a short look at LGA Labour’s 100 more innovations, the positive changes made to social care are particularly inspiring. Whether considering Kirklees Council’s housing policy that gives weight to care leavers or Blackpool’s trailblazing Health and Social Care Academy, the positive impact Labour councils are having on peoples’ lives in undeniable.

And all this in the midst of a crisis. Nearly £8bn has been taken from council budgets for social care since 2010, there are 1 million people not getting the care they need, and 87 people are dying a day waiting for care. It is not an understatement to say the changes made at local authority level can be lifesaving.

Positive strides have also been made to tackle the nation-wide housing crisis. Labour led councils have set the precedent in areas like South Tyneside through administering bespoke accommodation for ex-service personnel; and in Cambridge where Street Aid allows residents to donate to homeless people without any one being forced into a demeaning position. 

It is important that these innovations are shared with neighbouring local authorities if we are to showcase Labour’s grassroots ability. That is why, in my capacity as Shadow Communities Minister, I have been getting out to Labour run councils who are spearheading change and organising cross-regional idea sharing events. Key to building on Labour’s success at Local Government level will be demonstrating the innovation to those in non-Labour run areas.

With polls suggesting that public trust in local authority representatives is around 66% higher than their parliamentary counterparts, there are clear lessons to be learnt if we are to forge a path back to power. Truly empowered and independent local government offers the next Labour administration a meaningful, accountable, and democratic return to power. This opportunity must be seized.

Local authority provided services, often the lifelines we all rely on when most in need, touch the lives of thousands. From giving children and young people the best start in life to looking after older community members in need, they offer cradle to grave support. Labour’s initiatives, against all the odds, are fighting back against Tory austerity and winning. This innovative spirit will be key to securing the next Labour government and it would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of labour led local authorities.