England & Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance

Top takeaways from the Labour manifesto launch

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Image: Rat0007 via istock

As we approach the end of manifesto week, the Labour Party’s hotly anticipated manifesto was unveiled this morning.

It raises some interesting questions for local government.

At LGIU, we have argued for an immediate end to competitive bid funding and a restoration of multi-year financial settlements so it’s great to see a commitment to these.

And there are some pleasingly radical commitments: replacing business rates with a new system that balances bricks and mortar and digital businesses.

It’s good to see big thinking about a broken local government finance system.

But a manifesto is a statement of intent and commitment not a detailed policy programme so it’s unsurprising that it raises as many questions as it answers.

What will business rates be replaced by? How will a National Care Service square the circle with local delivery? What sort of governance arrangements will sit around the new devolution offer and the statutory requirement for local growth plans?

And there are areas where we would like to see them go further. At LGIU, we argued for a senate of mayors as far back as 2017 so it’s great to see a commitment to that but it could and should go further and include representatives from local government as well as combined authorities as we argued in our LGIU@40: For for the Future of Local Government last December.

There are also some elements that might give us pause. Will a National Care Service over-centralise care and divorce it from housing, planning and community services? Does the re-introduction of mandatory housing targets presage a return to the form of new public management that pushes out local innovation?

So there’s a lot to get our teeth into on the local government front but what’s missing, perhaps, is an account of how local government supports the broader picture. To put it bluntly, none of Labour’s missions can be delivered without councils:

  • You can’t improve productivity and create jobs unless you are growing local economies, providing the right infrastructure, ensuring local workforces have the right skills, and making sure they have the homes and the services they need.
  • You can’t transition to net zero and lead a clean energy revolution unless you are building public consent, retrofitting houses and developing active transport.
  • You can’t build safer communities without youth services, support for families and building community engagement and cohesion.
  • You can’t ensure that every child has access to opportunity without early years provision, school support services and special educational needs services.
  • You can’t take the pressure off the NHS unless you are helping people to live healthier lives, managing public health, providing healthy environments, leisure services, housing and the social care that helps people live independently for longer.

Local government does all of these things. National success has local foundations.

That’s why we have argued that the next government needs to establish a new covenant with local government based on the core principles of parity of esteem, subsidiarity, embedded autonomy and participation.

The Labour manifesto is ambitious in its scope. It creates the space to make this argument about the importance of local government while also illustrating exactly why it is so important for us to keep making it.

We will continue to work with our members – as we have done for the last 40 years – to ensure their voices are heard as this campaign continues to unfold.



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