Jeremy Corbyn speech to Labour councillors in Nottingham
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Speaking to Labour Councillors in Nottingham today, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:
We meet here in Nottingham at a time of growing strength for our party, after the surge in Labour support at last year’s general election, and when, this year, people are talking about Labour winning councils in the May elections that our party has not run for a very long time.
This is a people-powered transformation driven by the huge increase in our membership with activists flooding into our party and out onto the streets, knocking on doors and running street stalls as they will again this year.
And it is people-powered because our party now relies on people to fund it. We have no super-rich donors, no oligarchs or big business backers, just the thousands of small donations from our members and supporters, and from trade unionists banding together to support a party that represents them.
In years to come many of those new members will be Labour councillors and even Labour council leaders following in your footsteps.
We should welcome new people, fresh ideas, and young energy into our party. It’s a mass participation that we all must embrace. Because what our communities are facing is no less than the dismantling of the civilised society we all love. It will only be defended if we campaign together – members, councillors and MPs together.
So much that is great about our country and our communities was delivered by Labour governments, Labour mayors, and Labour councils so thank you for all you have done, all you are doing, and all you will do in the future working hand-in-hand with a transformational Labour government.
And I speak as a formal councillor myself – in fact the first Labour leader since Clement Attlee to have been a councillor.
But today this Conservative government has sent our public services spiralling into crisis. After nearly 8 years of Conservative government councils have lost 50% of their funding from central government. And yesterday we found out that Tory-run Northamptonshire council is effectively bankrupt.
What more evidence do we need? Austerity is unleashing chaos across our country, squeezing our local authorities and putting jobs and services at risk. When local councils face cuts, local people pay the price.
On Wednesday the local government finance settlement will be announced. We can expect more of the same, the same old Conservatives taking away funding and powers from local communities. And this year their cruelty has been compounded by incompetence or worse – getting their sums wrong in December and taking promised funding away from some of the poorest areas in England.
I want to pay tribute to our Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Andrew Gwynne for holding Sajid Javid to account and standing up for local councils.
Our schools are facing significant cuts – another 5% slashed by 2020. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, absolutely unprecedented numbers – 50,000 last year alone. Class sizes are soaring and there are now 24,000 unqualified teachers working in our schools. Colleges and adult education budgets have been slashed, ripping away opportunities from young people and from workers wanting to re-train.
In recent years over 600 youth centres have closed and over 3,600 youth worker jobs have gone. And here in Nottingham cuts risk your ability to meet your ambitious, and vital, goal of becoming the world’s first slavery free city.
The work Nottingham University does on tackling modern slavery is so important and shows what can be achieved when everyone comes together – the university, the council, churches, businesses, and charities. Because, as the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery report has identified we need action across the board to end this evil for good.
And local government has a key part to play, as a first responder seeing the early warning signs of trafficking, exploitation and slavery.
Our local communities have lost more than 21,000 police officers and nearly 7,000 Police Community Support Officers. Crime is going up – violent crime is up 20 per cent in the last year alone. Across the country Chief Constables are telling this government they cannot keep their communities safe due to the cuts to their budgets.
In the last year gun crime has increased by 20 per cent. The Chief Constable of Merseyside said recently: “Have I got sufficient resources to fight gun crime? No, I haven’t”?
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, said it was, “inevitable that without further assistance our police officer numbers will drop.”
And the Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset stated: “we cannot sustain further funding cuts without extremely serious consequences”.
The same level of cuts have hit our fire and rescue service with 11,000 fewer firefighters and dozens of fire stations closed.
When Labour says “austerity isn’t working”, it’s not just a slogan. It’s the reality that drives public service workers to despair as our communities suffer the consequences.
Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to our NHS. The NHS is in its deepest ever crisis with multiple causes – the cuts to social care, the loss of GPs, the cuts to councils’ public health budgets and the creeping privatisation that is leeching resources into the pockets of the few.
And it is exacerbated by austerity – rising poverty, homelessness, more people at food banks, and the number of people being diagnosed at hospital with malnutrition. Malnutrition – in modern Britain – has trebled in recent years. Poor quality housing, substandard conditions of poor insulation, damp and mould which is estimated to cost our NHS £1.4 billion a year.
And I’d also like to pay tribute to Karen Buck for her relentless campaigning to make all homes fit for human habitation and to those Labour council that have brought in landlord licensing including Liverpool, Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking & Dagenham and Croydon.
Those schemes are testament to the experience of Labour councils who know we can’t just let the market decide because power isn’t equally shared.
Austerity and privatisation are dismantling our civilised society and causing misery. We must urgently move on from Tory austerity and the failed privatisation obsession that has allowed services for the many to become cash cows for the few.
In the last month the arguments for privatisation – always threadbare and flawed – have now been brutally exposed by events.
Chris Grayling’s bailout of the East Coast mainline franchise. The implosion of outsourcing firm Carillion. the National Audit Office report into exorbitant PFI schemes.
The whole edifice of the ‘private good, public bad’ dogma has crumbled. We have seen what privatisation means: services get worse or are lost, jobs get cut, workers’ pension funds are left to wither, while boardroom executives get huge bonuses on top of eye-watering salaries and private shareholders dine off public services.
This is why Labour councils are taking measures to bring services back in-house and reject costly PFI-style models and to show the efficiency and resourcefulness of local government. And I pay tribute to Unison, GMB and Unite members who work so hard to deliver local government services day in and day out.
But what Labour councils up and down the country are doing is more than that – with amazing creativity in the toughest of times we are seeing the first shoots of the renaissance of local government for the many not the few, the rebirth of municipal socialism.
Just look here in Nottingham with Robin Hood Energy and inspiring Liverpool Leccy and Angelic Energy in my borough of Islington.
In Newcastle where the Tyne & Wear Metro has been taken back in-house after forced contracting-out, and the service is running better meeting people’s needs
That’s the lesson too for councils like Cardiff and here in Nottingham which have hung on to municipal bus companies and regulated bus services. In Redbridge waste services will come back in-house next year as they have in many other council areas.
And it’s about time we acknowledged a truth we all know- when it comes to running public services it’s the public sector that works best, that delivers for the many, not the few, accountable to the public and acting in the public interest.
Local government can be incredibly innovative which is why I urge everyone to read Labour’s 100 Innovations in Local Government. Labour in power can be creative and innovate to meet our people’s needs and create public value.
In many London boroughs and in many of our major cities housing is a key issue.
And the Tories record of abject failure shows why: home ownership levels have fallen, homelessness has doubled,
more families are living in temporary accommodation – over 120,000 children spent last Christmas without a home to call their own, private rents have risen faster than wages, housebuilding is lower, and the building of new social rented homes is now at the lowest level for a quarter of a century.
Working with our shadow housing minister John Healey, we will tackle the housing crisis: build the housing our communities need, including more council housing, clamp down on bad landlords renting substandard accommodation, give all renters greater security of tenanacy and stable rents, and tackle the homelessness epidemic blighting so many lives.
And I know many of you are engaging with John in the Social Housing Review he is undertaking.
And let me just briefly touch on the contentious issue of the HDV regeneration proposals in Haringey. For a massive regeneration programme with private company Lendlease. Faced with Tory cuts and a huge housing need the council leadership felt that this public-private proposal was the best deal it could get for residents.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all Labour councillors and councils across the country for their service and strength when faced with the appalling choices forced upon them by Tory cuts. But HDV is highly controversial with local people worried about their futures. That’s why 40% of Labour councillors opposed the proposals, as did the majority of party members in both CLPs, both Labour MPs, and local unions.
It has been a unique situation which is why the NEC unanimously asked the council leadership to put their plans on hold and take part in a mediation process to bring everyone together. Because when we bring people together and listen to everyone’s voices we make better decisions.
Democracy creates better outcomes for communities.
That’s why I was so pleased to be with Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Mayor of London, yesterday as he announced in Tory-controlled Barnet, his plans to give residents real control through a ballot before redevelopments can go ahead.
Regeneration must put local people first not property speculators which is why Labour is committed to giving residents the right to a ballot across the country so that when we’re in government we can deliver real regeneration for the many not the few.
In the election campaign the Tories ducked the debates because they have contempt for democracy, they took people for granted and come polling day they got the shock of their lives. This May let’s compound their misery and ensure more people wake up with a Labour council protecting them as much as possible against this destructive Conservative government.
Conference, even in the toughest of circumstances many of you have achieved so much to protect your communities and to innovate.
A Labour government will enable you can do so much more because we will ensure you have the resources your communities need and the powers that are necessary to deliver for them.
We set out in our manifesto how a Labour government would have funded investment into the NHS, to social care, to the police and fire service, and to schools and colleges.
And we also know that the system of local government finance – slashed by half since 2010 – is not sustainable so we would have put an extra £2 billion into local government this year.
The Tories seem to want local government to only get decent levels of funding in richer areas that can afford it. But we would have initiated a review of local council funding to make it sustainable for the long-term.
But it’s not only about money, but about the powers you need. The powers to borrow to build the council housing our communities so desperately need. And that’s why we will set up a National Investment Bank with regional development banks listening to local councils about the investment needs of their communities. Local government is an enabler of economic development and will be at the heart of our investment strategy.
Because we will only get real growth translating into good, secure jobs in every part of the country if we work at the local level.
And we will only tackle the housing crisis if councils can borrow to build so we will remove the arbitrary cap and allow councils once again to borrow to build.
That is the contrast between this Conservative government that taken away resources and devolved only cuts.
The next Labour government will give you the power and resources to help us build a country for the many not the few.
Next week Andrew Gwynne, our Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and our Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will be speaking at a conference on Community Wealth Building in Preston. Preston is a Labour council that has achieved so much and they will be sharing their experiences alongside community activists from around Britain and the United States.
As Labour members and politicians we know there is always much more to do, much more we can learn, and that we are much stronger when we listen, when we are inclusive and when work together.
And what makes a difference is applying our principles in power. And I know you share my determination that after May this year more people will have a Labour council putting Labour’s principles and priorities into practice.
And after that a Labour government in Westminster to deliver right across our country, for the many not the few.