Policies for Labour's Future Local Government after 2015

Published: 30 March 2014 at 11:21

Dr Richard Carr at the

Dr Richard Carr authors a series of essays for the influential Fabian Society Review

Over March 2014, Dr Richard Carr (Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University) authored a series of essays for the influential Fabian Society Review with the Westminster communications specialist Dominic Rustecki.

These essays make several suggestions for the new 'English Deal' sketched out by Hilary Benn, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Benn, together with Lord Maurice Glasman, also offered supportive discussions of the essays included in the document.

Collectively, they argue that:

  • A National Devolution Council (NDC) should be set up in shadow form by the Labour opposition and charged with considering the nature and effects of the proposed English Deal.
  • The NDC would provide annual reports on what powers should be devolved during the current and next parliamentary session, assess progress on current devolutionary legislation in passage, and outline where the devolution agenda should be looking over the next five years.
  • Local authorities should be given the power to set a local stamp duty of up to 2% on the sale of a new build property, to be paid by the developer. Authorities would be free to set it at 0%, but any receipt could be hypothecated to reducing council tax bills.
  • Central government should raise the borrowing cap for local authorities by at least £7bn to enable them to build 75,000 new homes over five years, create 23,500 jobs and £5.6bn of economic activity.
  • The English Deal should encourage local authorities to come forward with schemes to block buy energy and sell it at a lower rate to residents.
  • Enabling place-based responsible capitalism must include giving room to business on the ground to demonstrate its worth to local communities, through affording new powers and flexibilities to BIDs and other partnership frameworks.
  • The English deal should encourage local government to nudge business to become socially conscious market actors, helping to deliver on the needs of communities. Locally-focused and targeted nudge strategies could be led by councils or LEPs - those most in-tune with local needs.
  • On skills, Labour should make clear their broad support for Lord Heseltine?s recommendation that vocational and apprenticeship budgets should be devolved to local areas through a single funding pot. They should also back Heseltine on ensuring that all FE learning providers must consult and agree their provision with LEPs to ensure that the courses they offer to 16-18 year olds reflect local labour market requirements.
  • Labour should be prepared to invite Lords Heseltine and Baker into any commission set up to look at the long-term future of the University Technical College in the coming years.
  • The power to set up a bank using either the boundaries of a Local Enterprise Partnership or upper-tier authority should be conferred to local authorities and LEPs alike. Local authorities should also - perhaps collectively through the Local Government Association - come forward with proposals for how branches of Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland could be transferred into local 'banks of England.'
  • These county or city 'banks of England' should be capitalised through levies on the financial sector. A financial transaction tax is the best option here.