Jeremy Corbyn Speech to Labour Local Government Conference, Nottingham | 06 Jan 2016
Leader of the Labour Party, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP delivered the keynote closing address to this year’s LGA Labour and ALC Conference in Nottingham.
Thank you for that introduction Simon and thank you for all you for do as Chair of the Association of Labour Councillors.
It is an honour is to be here – addressing Labour councillors who make a huge contribution to our party and to our communities.
I was a Labour councillor for several years in Haringey, was the chair of planning, chair of the public works, secretary of the Labour Group but now I’ve decided to settle for being Labour leader.
But seriously, I know the commitment you have to your communities, in making a difference for local people.
I want to take this chance to congratulate our new Labour LGA Leader – Nick Forbes.
I look forward to working with Nick in these vital next three months and beyond and I’m sure that they will do a brilliant job.
There are many others here whom I would like to thank and I don’t have time to name everybody but I would just like to say a special thank you to the following:
- Alice Perry and Ann Lucas for their work on the National Executive
- Sharon Taylor and Steve Bullock for their work on the LGA
- And our Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Jon Trickett who speaks up so well for you in the shadow cabinet and in the Parliamentary Labour Party
We are all aware of the urgent need to gear up for the upcoming local government elections.
We have important elections in Scotland and Wales, and mayoral elections in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Salford – as well as the EU referendum on the horizon … In all those ballots, and in local elections across England, we are standing up for people, defending their rights and services, and protecting their communities.
The party must pull together to take our campaign to every part of the country and I’ll be encouraging every Labour MP in Westminster to get involved and to be focused on preventing the Tories devastating our communities and our local services.
I also want to pay tribute to local government unions who do so much to stand up, not only for their members … but for the services their members deliver and use.
They will be hit hard by the Tories’ divisive Trade Union Bill and Labour councils in Scotland, led by Glasgow, have said they will not implement the measures on facility time and check-off , if they become law, the sort of solidarity on which our movement thrives.
It is Labour councils that are defending services, protecting communities and boosting the local economy.
Dozens of Labour councils are now accredited living wage councils – as Labour is here in Nottingham and they are helping to eradicate the scourge of low pay in Tory Britain – with six million workers now paid less than the living wage.
Low pay and job insecurity are holding people back disrupting communities and meaning families live under fear of eviction or just struggling to make ends meet every month.
Again it is Labour councils meeting this challenge, building council housing to address the needs of their communities, setting up landlord registration schemes.
And what is the Tory response? To force councils to sell off council housing at a time when it has never been more vital.
And when Labour’s Teresa Pearce put an amendment to the Housing Bill to ensure that homes for rent must be fit for human habitation. The Tories voted against it. They don’t believe either that the private rented sector needs to be regulated.
Whether it’s the crisis of low pay or the housing crisis it is Labour offering solutions and Labour councils making a real difference in communities.
When it comes to rip-off energy bills it is Labour councils that are setting up energy companies – including Robin Hood Energy here in Nottingham – to get a better deal for residents and to tackle climate change.
We can reduce bills for people and we can tackle climate change. There is no contradiction.
That is why, co-ordinated by our shadow environment secretary Lisa Nandy , 70 Labour councils have committed to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050 – including major cities like Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, and Liverpool.
Good for the environment, good for local people, good for public health.
What have the Tories done? They have failed to invest in renewable energy, cut subsidies for the nascent solar industry, but increased them for fracking and for diesel generators.
This is a new era of Labour innovation and public action in local government. Despite the pressure from Tory cuts and dictats, we are demonstrating that there is an alternative to outsourcing, privatisation and the running down of local services.
Privatisation isn’t just about who runs a service it’s about who services are accountable to, about who shares the rewards, about protecting the workforce and getting a good deal for local people who use the services.
After a generation of forced privatisation and outsourcing of public services, the evidence has built up that handing services over to private companies routinely delivers poorer quality, higher cost, worse terms and conditions for the workforce, less transparency and less say for the public.
This isn’t only a local or even a national issue it is also a European one – in the referendum campaign Labour will be making it clear we stand up for public ownership and accountability and that is why Labour MEPs have been resisting the potential threats to our public services and democratic accountability in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP deal.
Our party is committed to keeping Britain in the EU because we believe it is the best framework for European trade and cooperation and in the best interests of the British people.
But we also want to see progressive reform in Europe – democratisation, stronger workers’ rights, sustainable growth and jobs. at the heart of economic policy and an end to the pressure to privatise and deregulate public services.
And we will be pressing the case for a real social Europe during the coming referendum campaign.
In Britain, Labour will be the real party of devolution and a Labour government in 2020 will give local councils real powers – to innovate, to borrow and to invest.
We want local councils to have the freedom to develop their local economies and communities to become the public entrepreneurs of the 21st century – directly providing cutting edge public services and utilities in the economy of the future.
Labour councils are already innovating, pushed to the limit by spending cuts, forced to respond to deteriorating economic conditions.
Councils like Enfield have been co-ordinating local institutions to procure and hire locally and using council procurement to encourage the same.
Preston council too is actively seeking opportunities to create local co-operatives while others like Oldham have setup credit unions to stop the exploitation by payday lenders.
It is not enough to oppose austerity. We must also provide a vision of the future. In embryo, and in dire circumstances Labour local authorities are doing precisely that.
We will give councils greater freedoms to innovate in this way, on a larger scale, to do more to support their community and their local economy.
And to roll back the tide of forced privatisation that locks people out of decision-making, that makes services less accountable, that too often means a bad deal for taxpayers – a bad deal for communities and a bad deal for workers too.
That’s what’s been happening across Europe – where scores of cities across out continent have been taking water, energy and other services back into local public ownership.
And it’s been happening on the ground in our towns and cities as well. The difference direct public provision can make is clear enough – anyone who has caught one of the municipal buses in Nottingham this weekend can see the difference.
Compare that with Oxfordshire council which is removing subsidy from 118 bus routes. I suspect another letter will be fired off by the chair of the Chipping Norton anti-cuts alliance, Mr David Cameron.
The Prime Minister who authorises the cuts then complains that his council makes them.
In tough times it is the commitment of Labour councillors that drive us to innovate, to find new ways of protecting our communities.
When I was Chair of the public works committee on Haringey council I ensured that every contractor recognised trade unions otherwise they didn’t get contracts.
Enfield Labour Council threatened to name-and-shame major employers that didn’t hire local people and use local contractors.
We want to deliver the very best for our communities and deliver the very best services – locally run, locally owned and locally accountable.
Labour is standing up for our people locally, nationally and internationally.
Our message in the local government campaign is clear:
Labour is standing up for you. A Labour council is the best protection for your community and local services against the onslaught of Tory cuts. People are better off with Labour.
The Tories’ austerity is political choice not an economic necessity – these cuts are brutal and unnecessary and it is a Labour council that is the best protection for communities.
They said that their ‘long-term economic’ plan would sort all this out, that the deficit would be eradicated by now, yet their plan has failed and the cuts continue.
We must expose all the Tory failures: class sizes up, hospital waiting lists up, homelessness up, evictions up, queues at food banks up, child poverty up, while services like social care, on which communities rely, are cut.
We cannot take for granted any part of our communities. We need to secure our party’s traditional vote as well as reaching out to new people in every part of the country.
Our party membership has doubled and we need to harness the energy and enthusiasm of all our activists, new and longstanding members, to reach more voters than ever.
We want to engage young people whose turnout is low but who lean towards Labour and make sure they are registered to vote.
And older voters, too many of whom have lost faith in Labour, but who vote in high numbers and we must restore their faith in us.
The Tories are being economically reckless, and – as the devastating winter floods show – are paying for their attempts to cut corners in public services funding.
If the Tories had continued our investment in flood defences, had kept on the senior staff employed to make decisions in these emergencies and had protected the emergency services who responded to save lives and homes during those difficult days and weeks we would not have seen the level of destruction and flood damage that our country was subjected to.
Yet they refuse to learn their lesson
- They continue making deep cuts to vital local public services, damaging the recovery while hoping rising household debt will keep the economy afloat
- They are selling off public housing while rents are soaring and people struggle to get on the housing ladder.
- They are starving the NHS and social care of the cash needed to look after our people.
- They are slashing police numbers and cutting support for schools.
Labour under my leadership poses a much-needed alternative to this false economy.
We have already challenged them and won on many important issues:
- We forced them to take a U-turn on cuts to working tax credits saving 3 million families over £1,000 this April
- We made them backtrack on plans to further cut police numbers in their Autumn statement
- And we stood against the horrendous proposal that the UK would run Saudi Arabia’s prison system for them
Labour is standing up for people.
We stand for fairness and prosperity for all.
Labour exists to create the jobs, security, services and life chances denied to so many
We understand that it pays to invest in public services – the Tories don’t know the value of public services – they only know the price, when they put them up for sale or let.
We understand that real people’s lives are being wrecked by cuts to these services and we refuse to stand idly by while the Tories destroy areas like adult social care.
That is why, alongside our election campaign, we will also be launching a targeted campaign against the Tory cuts.
The purpose of this is threefold
- To demonstrate the vital importance of local services, underpinned by fair local government funding, in protecting local communities and to dispel myths about the wastefulness of local councils and to make the case for local services, locally run and locally accountable.
- To highlight the extent of Tory cuts and the injustice of the way they have been carried
- To unite people around a common goal of opposing Tory spending cuts and force the government into action
This campaign will run alongside our election campaign but will be broader and wider and will feed into our long-term strategy for 2020.
As part of achieving our first goal I propose we launch a national Public Services Day – a day when everybody comes together to highlight the importance of our public services and their incredible value to our communities.
These services -and the people who rely on them – are under threat from the Tories agenda to cut and privatise.
We have brilliant examples of what Labour councils provide all over the country and I hope we can make a huge impact by launching this campaign nationally.
I look forward to working with you so that we all achieve more together in the coming year.
The communities you represent need a Labour council.
Thank you for all that you do.