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Think tank calls for a radical rethink of the role of local government

17.09.2014 ****EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01HRS 18 SEPTEMBER 2014***

For further information and media requests:

Contact: Rachel Yates E: Rachel.yates@classonline.org.uk T: 0207 611 2569

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) has today [Thursday] released a paper by local government expert and Islington Councillor James Murray, setting out a clear vision for the future of local government. He argues that councils should be more than struggling providers or commissioners of a few basic services - and instead shows what an innovative local state is capable of achieving.

The paper argues that a radical rethink is needed to turn the page on over 30 years of reduced powers and funding for local authorities and the weakening of local accountability. Murray demonstrates that despite the Coalition accelerating the trend over recent decades to shrink the scope and reach of what local councils can do, and in spite of catastrophic cuts to funding, many progressive councils are seeking a more active role.

The paper – The role of local government in a modern state – highlights cases where councils have begun to build new housing, intervene to tackle conditions in the private rented sector, bring public services back in-house and use their procurement powers to raise wages in their boroughs.

Cllr James Murray said:

“The challenges we face in housing, low pay, and protecting public services need bold ideas. Local government has a unique and valuable role to play - yet it faces a bleak future under the Coalition's deep and unfair cuts, and their attempts to bypass local democracy.

"Despite all the difficulties, some town halls have made the decision to build homes, regulate the private rented sector, raise low pay, and improve services by taking direct control of them. They are pointing the way for what role local government can play in a modern state and a fairer country.

"Some problems need national solutions, but others are best tackled locally. This paper sets out where local decision-making has the advantage - not by offering market-based choices, but by enabling local government to come up with the right collective responses to the challenges we face.”

Steve Hart, Chair of Class said:

“Recent days have seen much discussion about the centralisation of the British state in the context of the referendum. Here, James Murray argues vigorously for a restoration of local accountability and collective solutions to community problems through empowering and properly funding local government.

Enabling Councils to build homes, restoring democratic accountability to schools and enabling the replacement of failing outsourced privatised services with direct provision shouldn’t really be radical - but it is. Here, James Murray argues for a refreshing new approach which should become a core part of Labour’s alternative”


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Notes to Editors:

1. The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) is a new think tank established in 2012 by Unite the Union, GMB and the Institute of Employment Rights to act as a centre for left debate and discussion and has the growing support of a number of trade Unions including ASLEF, CWU, FEU, GFTU, NUT, PCS, PFA, TSSA, UCATT, MU, NUM, BFAWU and UCU. Originating in the labour movement, Class is working with a broad coalition of supporters, academics and experts to develop and advance alternative policies for today. http://classonline.org.uk/about/panel

2. Councillor James Murray is the Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council, having first been elected as a councillor in 2006. He has been on the Executive since May 2010, since when Islington has embarked on a major building programme of new council and social housing, as an alternative to the government’s ‘Affordable Rent’ programme. http://classonline.org.uk/about/panel/james-murray

3. A copy of the paper can be found here from 00.01AM on 18 September: http://classonline.org.uk/pubs/item/the-role-of-local-government-in-a-modern-state  - for advance copies please respond to this email.

4. The paper is part of a new series from Class on the role of the modern state, which covers key political issues such as decentralisation and new forms of public governance and ownership.
http://classonline.org.uk/projects/in-the-public-interest-the-role-of-the-modern-state

More information
For further information, articles, interviews or media requests please contact Rachel Yates on Rachel.yates@classonline.org.uk or 020 7611 2569.

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