|Regional Conference report||1984|
|My selection speech||July 1985|
|Forest branch minutes||July 8, 1985|
|62% rates increase||1987|
The manifesto conference for the 1986 borough council election held this weekend (July 6/7 at the Grange) was without doubt an incredible event.
It will be long remembered as the conference at which leader of the Labour Group Neil Gerrard made it clear that he believed there, were other things Labour councils could do than just spend money on services. Finance was not the be all and end all, he argued. The way we carry out services is also important.
This made it clear to me, at any rate, that notwithstanding the frequent criticism of the Tories for neglecting services or running them down, the next Labour council will not radically improve services unles this can be done at very little or no cost.
In my view the main debate was on the industry and employment report. The discussion document presented by Bob Tennant said "no rate and rent increases and no job cuts". Councillor Gerrard laid down a complex amendment which said "no redundancies" not "no job cuts"---in other words it allowed for natural wastage as at least a possibility. It said services were inadequate but said we could not do anything about it unless a Labour Government was elected. And most significantly it said "a reasonable level of rate increase may be necessary for maintenance and expansion of services". I argued that rates were a regressive tax which benefited the rich most and hurt the poor most severely. The conference decidedly rejected any question of keeping the rates down. On rent, by the way, the effect of Neil Gerrard's amendment was to give the next Labour council the freedom to push up the rents as much as it likes.
To explain the real effect of Neil Gerrard's amendment you have to look at a paper drawn up by the Labour leader on the council's financial resources. This clear and well presented report makes very interesting reading . Current total spending by the council is £110,813m. Under rate capping the total spending allowed before penalties is £111.702m. To increase spending above the target by 1% the rates would have to go up by 9p in the pound on the 200.5p in the pound current rate charge. In other words the rates will have to go up by a massive amount to make only a very small improvement in services.
DECENTRALISATION. . .the other a main theme of the conference was decentralisation. This is clearly the flavour of the month in much the same way that turning the party into a campaigning body was very fashionable a few years ago. A special committee is to be set up to look at decentralisation and re-structuring council committees but some things were decided.
For example on housing, plans to give local sub committees control of housing budgets was rejected. There was a fear that the National Front or the Liberals might take over estate committees. For the same reason plans to give these committees the power to run repairs, rents, allocations, improvements grants, and other related services was rejected. There was a strong feeling that if we gave power away to these local groups we could not carry out progressive socialist style housing policies. But all was not lost completely. The group is committed to promoting housing co-ops and if 80% of council tenants in any area want a co-op then they will be given the right to manage their own housing.
ALONG with decentralisation was the idea that services should be somehow combined to more effectively serve the customer.
CLAYBURY Hospital is to be shut down in eight years time. We decided to both support and oppose this.
TENANTS Charter to give tenants more say and. greater local control. We are committed. to this.
RENTS to be frozen until a more equitable system which takes out of account fluctuations in money markets, is developed. The money markets are important because of debt charge for the original cost of building the housing. Interest rates contribute to the cost of rents.
Race relations. There will probably be a committee devoted to the subject. Also positive discrimination amongst applicants for council jobs, ethnic monitoring etc.
WOMEN will also probably have a committee and various advantages.
PLANNING hypermarkets to be discouraged but local shops will be specifically picked out as desirable and to be encouraged.
BUSES a plan to have local council buses was rejected (I don't think the TGWU would have thought that was a good idea).
JOBS for locals. . A plan to help local jobless by encouraging the employment of local people, by the council was rejected.
PAY & CONDITIONS for manual and professional workers at the council are to be harmonised. Everyone will eventually get a 35 hour week.
PRIVATE SECTOR HOUSING more statutory notices of unfit housing. Improvement programme geared to better those in worst condition. Worst to be compulsorily purchased.
HOUSING BENEFIT maximum take up to be ensured.
CYCLE paths to be considered.
PENSION fund of council employees to be invested for the good of the borough. This will probably be impossible, in some cases. For example the teachers pension fund is nationally controlled.
LEFT WING NEWSPAPER may be set up to counter right wing local propaganda. Council may finance a printing works and investigate the possibility of a video production unit.
GRANTS and relief to be given to co-ops.
PUBLICITY more publicity of council's job creating initiatives.