Labour’s 7,000 plus councillors are the backbone of the party. We are depended on to knock on doors, and along with fantastic activists, keep local parties alive. We work hard; attending numerous meetings and community events while balancing work and family life with our passion for making a difference in our local communities.
We also make a very significant financial contribution to party funding through our subs to the Association of Labour Councillors (ALC). Councillors will provide over £2 million in funding to the national party this year. Labour councillors also give millions more to local parties and largely fund the party’s network of organisers. But if the party is going to take our money and expect us to dedicate so much of our time to keeping local parties going, it needs to listen to us and take our advice. We deserve respect.
Labour can be proud of our record in local government. Despite massive cuts from the Tory-led government we have all set balanced budgets that reflect our Labour’s values. It has not been easy but we have managed well. Labour councils have done amazing things to transform our communities from providing universal free school meals to building new social housing; from radically rewiring public services to getting people into work.
Outside the Westminster bubble, as the local face of Labour, we are first to hear the concerns of the people we represent. That is why as the Labour leadership is about to make decision about the election manifesto it is more important than ever that we, in local government, stand up for ourselves and ensure our voice is heard at the top of the Party.
Next month councillors will have the opportunity to vote for two representatives on the National Executive Committee (NEC). Given our enormous contribution to the party, this election provides us with a key opportunity to stand up for local government and the communities we care so much about.
I have spoken with councillors from around the country. Over and over again councillors are asking for two things.
First, we are asking for full accountability of where our ALC subs go. As elected representatives, we are accountable to the public for how their money is spent. Likewise, we need accountability and transparency about how the party spends our subs.
This year Labour councillors will – after UNITE – provide more money to the party than any other donor. But they don’t even tell us where our money is spent, let alone give us a say. Under the last Labour Government councillors were often seen as politically expendable. We aren’t. We deserve more respect. If elected to the NEC I will work to ensure that our money is spent supporting councillors, including asking the party to give a higher priority to local election campaigns.
The second thing councillors are asking for is for a fair deal on local government funding. We have all made difficult decisions due to the Tory-led government’s cuts that have unfairly hit Labour communities hardest. I know from my own council’s loss of a third of our budget, with more cuts in the pipeline, that continuing with Tory spending plans will destroy our ability to make a difference to the people who vote for us.
Local government has already been hit harder than any other part of the public sector. We’ve all coped with those cuts well, but that doesn’t mean it is OK to keep cutting council budgets. Our NEC representatives need to stand up for local government and say that ‘enough is enough’.
Labour’s first budget needs to protect local services, devolve more power to local councils and ensure a fairer funding formula so Labour councils hit by Tory cuts will be better off. At the meeting of the NEC that decides Labour’s election manifesto I will seek a clear commitment to no further cuts in local government beyond those voted for by the Tory-led government in the 2015-16 budget year. We need a fairer funding formula that will mean Labour councils hit by Tory cuts will be better off.
This blog first appeared on Labourlist