The LGA Labour Group is hugely disappointed by the initial report of the Labour Party Democracy Review.
The interim report and recommendations of the Democracy Review were presented to the NEC in July, though they were barely discussed due to the length of time that was devoted to debating whether or not to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. The chapter relating to Local Government can be found here.
The LGA Labour Group had made a serious and detailed submission to the Review, a few parts of which appear to have been accepted, but the general tone of the Review in relation to local government betrays a general lack of understanding of local government, and an astonishing lack of respect towards Labour Party members who serve as councillors. Given that the original remit of the Democracy Review was to ‘develop the accountability of Labour local authority elected members’, there is no recognition within the document of the current legal and financial frameworks that councillors operate within, nor the fact that councillors are the most accountable - both to the party and to their local community – of all elected representatives. Nor is there any acknowledgement of the significant role that Labour councillors have fulfilled in protecting communities from the worst of austerity, and how Labour in local government will be an essential part of delivering the policy programme of an incoming Labour Government.
The biggest concern is that the Review proposes to ban all councillors from serving on Local Government Committees - effectively downgrading councillors to second-class membership, with no say over decisions relating to local government policy development and campaigning. The stupidity and self-defeating nature of attempting to exclude those party members who have the deepest knowledge, experience, and responsibilities towards local government, not to mention their breadth of campaigning expertise and financial commitment, is breath-taking.
LGA Labour Group leader and NEC member Cllr Nick Forbes has made formal comments in response to the Review, outlining his extreme disappointment at what is being proposed. He states: “The Democracy Review should have been a fantastic opportunity to consider how our party’s rules and processes can be improved to assist councillors and Labour Groups to be effective in delivering for their communities, to be as open and accountable as possible, and to ensure that the role and importance of local government is properly understood and recognised in the party. It could have celebrated and recognised the immense contribution made by 6,500 Labour councillors and over 120 Labour-led councils, adopted progressive approaches to help deepen the wider membership’s understanding of local government, and embrace radical ways for a mass membership party to work in partnership with Labour Groups to develop policy. Instead, the Review presents a confusing cocktail of ideas that have not been properly considered and assertions that are not supported by evidence. It fails to seriously examine and evaluate the differing arguments on any important issue relating to local government. The underlying assumption, manifest throughout the Review, that Labour Party members who are councillors are somehow influenced by differing motivations to those of their fellow party members, and are therefore ‘conflicted’ when it comes to local government campaigning and policy development, is deeply insulting and frankly uncomradely.”
You can read Nick’s full response.