Manifesto 2019:Rebuild our Public Services - Communities and Local Government

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Communities and Local Government

Labour will reverse the Tory decade of austerity for local government and aim to restore council spending powers to 2010 levels over the lifetime of the Parliament.

While those who make decisions in Whitehall can seem distant and detached, our local councillors live among us, shopping on the same high street, using the same parks and leisure centres and sending their children to the same schools. Thriving local councils are vital to Labour’s democratic transformation of the economy.

Councils are the collective voice of local communities and are on the frontline in delivering many essential public services.

Tory cuts, which have been deliberately targeted at the poorest areas of the country, have plunged our councils into crisis and pushed many services to breaking point. Decades of privatisation and outsourcing have hollowed out council capacity, taken money out of communities and undermined democratic accountability.

We will act to bring services – from bin collections to management of local leisure centres – back in-house within the next Parliament, improving service quality, saving money and ensuring the people who deliver vital local services are treated decently.

Rural councils deliver public services differently, and this needs to be reflected in funding allocation mechanisms. We will introduce a ‘rural- proofing’ process so that all our laws, policies and programmes consider their impact on rural communities.

Where local areas experience a sharp rise in demand for services, we will make council funding more reactive, and will work with councils to establish such a fund to meet changing circumstances.

Our high streets are being decimated by store closures and jobs losses.

High streets are more than places to shop, they are places we go for culture, company and character. We will revive high streets by stopping bank branch closures, banning ATM charges and giving local government new powers to put empty shops to good use.

Business rates are causing real issues for high-street retailers and others.

A Labour government will review the option of a land value tax on commercial landlords as an alternative and develop a retail sector industrial strategy.

We will make sure the rights of consumers are enhanced and protected, that safety standards are maintained and improved, and that local authority trading standards departments and other consumer protection agencies have the resources to enforce those rights and standards.

We will stop Crown Post Office closures and bring Royal Mail back into public ownership at the earliest opportunity, reuniting it with the Post Office and creating a publicly owned Post Bank run through the post office network to ensure every community has easy access to face-to-face, trusted and affordable banking.

A Business Development Agency will be based in the Post Bank, providing free support and advice on how to launch, manage and grow a business.

Pubs are community hubs but 18 are closing each week in Britain. Labour will list pubs as Assets of Community Value so community groups have the first chance to buy local pubs when they are under threat.

We will ensure libraries are preserved for future generations and updated with Wi-Fi and computers. We will reintroduce library standards so that government can assess and guide councils in delivering the best possible service.

As well as the presumption to insource public services, we will build community wealth by giving communities the powers and resources they need to keep public spending circulating in the local economy, rather than being sucked offshore to corporate tax havens. We will extend community control in the private sector by supporting local and community businesses. We will give a new Co-operative Development Agency a mission to double the size of the co-operative sector.

Labour will put the voices of local people at the heart of planning. We will rebalance power in the planning system by giving local government greater freedom to set planning fees and by requiring the climate and environmental emergency to be factored into all planning decisions.

Young people have been let down by the Conservatives. At least 750 youth centres have closed since 2012. Too many young people now have nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to help them with their problems. Labour will build a properly funded, professionally staffed National Youth Service, and will guarantee every young person has access to local, high-quality youth work.

Vulnerable children have suffered most, with many left waiting until crisis point for support. Councils are having to meet the needs of more at-risk children with lower funding.

Labour will launch a wholesale review of the care system, including kinship care, considering national standards such as a central register of foster parents and regulation of semi-supported housing, to ensure we meet the needs of every child.

We will rebuild early intervention services and replace the Troubled Families programme with a Stronger Families programme, refocused on long-term support to reduce the risk of children going into care.

We will protect and build on Staying Put for over-18s in care and the Adoption Support Fund.