Labour government would hand power to councils, says leader Ed Miliband

North East council leaders have welcomed Labour leader Ed Miliband's plans to end a century of centralisation

Labour leader Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband

North East council leaders have welcomed Labour leader Ed Miliband’s pledge to reverse a “century of centralisation” by giving local authorities a bigger role providing vital local services.

Councils would oversee police services, further education, local schools and part of the health service under a Labour government, Mr Miliband has announced.

It follows decades in which authorities have seen their powers reduced, for example because schools have left local authority control.

The policy announcement also confirmed that Labour would abolish Police and Crime Commissioners, the politicians elected to oversee police forces.

Mr Miliband said that in return for increased powers and funding, authorities would be told to set up independent spending watchdogs to ensure money was well spent.
Durham Council leader Simon Henig

The plans were drawn up by Labour’s Local Government Innovation Taskforce, which includes Coun Simon Henig, Labour Leader of Durham County Council.

Coun Henig said: “It’s a really positive move because my belief is that we are far too centralised as a country and it’s high time that we moved powers out of Whitehall and into regions and localities.”

And Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said: “There’s now cross-party consensus around greater powers and responsibility for local government and I particularly welcome the proposals in Ed Miliband’s announcement about a public accounts committee for local areas.

“That could help scrutinise not only the work of councils but of other public services to ensure we are working together effectively in the wider public interest.”

Under the proposals, Local authorities, medical professionals and patient representative groups will take responsibility for keeping elderly and vulnerable people out of hospital by running health and social care programmes.

Councils will take responsibility for equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed by managing further education for 19 to 24 year-olds as well as a new service for under-21s looking for work.

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council
Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council

They would have a say in the appointment of local police commanders - and council leaders will sit on new Policing Boards, which will replace Police and Crime Commissioners.

Councils, health services, education services, police and other local bodies would form partnerships to help families in poverty or struggling in other ways, with a share of a £1.5bn nation budget.

Local authorities would appoint a Directors of School Standards to scrutinise schools, draw up a long-term strategic plan for education in each area and intervene where schools are failing.

And councils with “a strong track record of delivery” will be encouraged to negotiate with central government to take on more powers.

The Labour leader said he would chart a new course away from the “old top-down command model” towards what he called a new era of “people-powered public services”.

There would be a statutory requirement on local authorities to set up public accounts committees to scrutinise value for money for all services in their area.

Mr Miliband said: “The next government can make big reforms without big spending. By reversing the centralisation of power we will empower those who are best able to use the resources we have and have shown they can deliver.”


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