Local government is facing challenges like never before. Unprecedented cuts, increased demand for many services, a secretary of state who seems determined to shrink the size of the state and a government which is ducking many of the important issues like funding for adult social care. And this year many councils will take on responsibility for public health, with all the added complexities of transferring staff, budgets and contracts.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale and magnitude of all this. That’s why it’s important Labour councillors get together to discuss how to deal with the cuts, campaign for a fairer deal for local government, and keep our eyes on the bigger picture – creating strong, sustainable communities where people feel valued and cared for.
Local government is the most innovative part of the public sector and Labour councils are leading the way in delivering innovation. We need the opportunity to showcase the work we are all doing, and share good ideas with each other. We also need to support each other through the most difficult time the public sector has seen for more than half a century.
Labour councillors also have a valuable contribution to make to the next Labour manifesto. We know what works, and what doesn’t; what people are really concerned about in their neighbourhoods; and what Labour needs to say in order to make a real difference to people’s daily lives. We are the building blocks of the party; the writers and distributors of leaflets, the door-knockers, the people who encourage others to turn out and vote in elections. Our voice is an important one and deserves to be heard in policymaking.
This is why it’s important for Labour councillors to have their own conference – an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas, support and learn from each other, talk to shadow cabinet members and plan for the future. This year the conference is taking place in Nottingham on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 February. It’s the first Labour Local Government Conference since 2005 and will be opened by Ed Miliband. The overall theme is local government finances and the role of local government in delivering economic growth. Labour councillors from all around the country will be speaking and running breakout sessions on policy areas, campaigning and training. Please do come along for one of the most important political events of the year – councillors, candidates and members can register for the event via the Labour party secure website here.
Nick Forbes is leader of Newcastle city council. He tweets @Nick_Forbes
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