okay well welcome to this session i’m jim mcmahon am the leader the LJ label group and i’m delighted to be joined by harriet harman the actin leader the Labour Party he’s got to go to the lectern and give us a speech followed by about 10 minutes of question and answer thanks very much and thanks for inviting me here today to speak to you at first I’d like to pay tribute to counselor Dave sparks who’s led Dudley Council with distinction for so many years and who served as your chair for albeit to brief a time but can I congratulate his successor councillor Gary Porter Gary you’re probably out there somewhere or having a cup of tea alternatively you take on the role of leading the LGA and she I can’t see you there isn’t any way they can turn the lights down ah that’s better I can see you all excellent hello but anyway to Gary who I’m now scanning the audience for he takes on the role of leading the LGA at a critical time for local government and though we’re not in the same party I want to say very clearly to Gary that will work to back you up in your role of championing the cause of local government and I hope you will see us as strong allies standing out for local government in Westminster and I’m delighted that this session is being chaired by a great counselor and good friend of mine Jim McMahon and i’m here with Emma Reynolds who having led for us on housing is now shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Steve read our shadow minister for local government who will be known to many of you as the former leader of Lambeth Council and who’s in the tradition of some of the best council leaders who then bring that experience into Parliament this is an important conference and it’s great meeting here in historic and beautiful spa town of Harrogate some people come to Harrogate to relax unwind have a bit of pampering and feel good about themselves and others come to the LGA conference it won’t be restful but it will be invigorating because you all care and are deeply involved in local government so I’m delighted to be with you here today though sorry to be speaking to you today as the opposition rather than a minister but that’s democracy for you you know we want it to be in government but that’s not the job we got but the job we did get is nonetheless very important which is to be the opposition to scrutinize government plans to hold them to account and we will need to as we embark on the next five years of opposition take a serious look within our own party at our relationship between our party in parliament and our party in local government we can’t be behind where the people are and while people want a coherent center doing what it needs to do they have no time anymore for things being done centrally which should be being done locally and they don’t want a top-down approach and I think in our PR party we all feel that we could do it better both in the terms of the devolution agenda the financial framework for local government and the political partnership between the central and the local and that means change in the policies but also in the processes and in our political culture we we meet here at a turbulent time for democratic politics for too many people politics is a dirty word and politician a term of abuse and we all in our different ways have to work to rebuild confidence in our democratic politics and you as elected councillors and council leaders are an increment I’m when people feel that politicians live on a different planet your local you live in the authority you represent you’re out and about in your communities you are the politician that people are not only most likely to see but also most likely to know and when you take up a problem on someone’s behalf it can make a real difference to their lives as people see you responding to the individual concerns and complaints that they have and involving yourself in improving your area and local services you are building and sustaining trust in Poli and whether it’s caring for the vulnerable or whether it’s schools libraries leisure centres parks children’s centres the work that councils do is of huge importance and greatly valued in this difficult time for local government by far the most pressing issue is the challenge of council finances undoubtedly this is a time of a general fall in public spending when tough choices need to be

made but the government’s choices are having a disproportionate impact on local government you’ve already undergone many years of falling funding cut by forty percent over the period of the last Parliament disproportionately hitting most deprived areas on top of this even without any further reductions in next week’s budget or the Autumn Statement you’re set to face further cuts of 3.3 million in 2016 17 billion sorry the report you published last week which is an excellent report shows this will leave councils facing a funding gap of 9.5 billion pounds by the end of the decade and I know it’s a great deal easier to say than to do but it’s to your credit on behalf of people in your areas that you’ve risen to the challenges so far by looking a fresh at what you do and how you do it whether by pooling staff and sharing services is bolsover and North East Java sure councils have done or like Blackburn and Darwin Council who saved 2.2 million pounds in just one year by using pioneering telecare technology or in Lewisham Lambeth Southwark where they’ve developed community budgets that work across borough boundaries to support people in to work and improve local skills but spending less or Wigan Council changing its entire approach to prevention of ill health to reduce costs in the health budget and improve public health in their area these these are examples I’ve picked that our labour councils but I know that you’ve been doing this across the board but local government finance is at tipping point and these further cuts come at a time when there is a need for you to be doing more whether it’s safeguarding children from neglect violence or sexual abuse whether it’s looking after the children in your care supporting disabled people or whether it’s caring for the elderly on elderly care three things are together creating a perfect storm our population is aging there’s growing concern about to see the quality of care improved and there is less money for it council services are vital for helping keep older people healthy independent in their own homes and out of hospitals whether it’s a grab rail at home some home-cooked food meals or a day centre and we’ve seen councils pioneering work on this from Derbyshire down to torbay and this is not only important for the people who get the care but without these services there would be even greater pressure on the already overstretched NHS and everything that you do is interconnected in with other services and there are big issues at the other end of the life cycle as well not only with public concern about safeguarding the most vulnerable children but public demand for childcare provision last week’s report by the Family and Child Care Trust showed that in a quarter of local authorities there’s a shortage of childcare places for three and four year olds in a third of local authorities a shortage of places for two year olds and in a third of local authorities a shortage of after-school care and holiday play schemes early years provision is so important for children to get a good start start in life and for parents who want to be able to work and there’s a demand for more but central government cutbacks have already constrained the vital work of children’s centres when there’s less money the growing demand for statutory services puts even greater pressure on the other important things that councils do and that people want you to do like supporting arts and culture like supporting leisure centres this work shapes communities and gives a sense of neighborhood identity that people really value and there’s no chance of the big society if locally services that build communities are being undermined all of this is having the greatest impact on the communities you serve that have the greatest needs and there just is a sense of unfairness that over the last five years the ten most deprived areas have their spending power cut by 12 times the amount that’s been cut of the 10 least deprived areas and the workforce delivering services have already faced a squeeze both in numbers and in their pay many of them low paid and relying on tax credits which we fear are set to be cut we all know that the public finances need to be brought back into balance but this shouldn’t be done in such a way that compromises the basic viability of vital council services you cannot empower local government if you choose to impoverish it but empowering local government is exactly what needs to be

done this must be the devolution era we know that devolution is key to driving economic growth throughout the country raising productivity and crucially rebalancing our economy devolving will help us reform our public services and ensure they better meet local needs by giving places the freedom to innovate and Taylor services to meet the specific needs of the communities they serve it’s good for our politics re-engaging people at the local level the devolution to Scotland Wales and London which we initiated when we were in government has energized the whole devolution agenda more widely and rightly so against a background of mistrust in politics people want decisions taking closer to them by people who they think have a better idea of what’s going on and against a background of the financial squeeze working across services within across local areas is not just a luxury an added extra but an imperative and you’ve shown what can be done when local government gets more freedom to innovate and redesign services to meet the needs of local communities when it comes to devolution it’s not enough to talk about it it’s got to be done and it’s got to be done everywhere it’s got to be in our county regions our towns and suburbs as well as our great cities and it’s got to be coherent not piecemeal it can evolve but it must be coherent no areas must be left behind and government must walk the walk on devolution actually handing over power not just saying they are and the resources to go with it and not dictating how it should be done it’s a contradiction in terms to do devolution from the top down and I think it’s wrong for central government to say you can have devolution but only if you accept the mayoral structure which we’re dictating the cities and local government devolution bill is going through Parliament we want greater devolution in housing adult skills transport back to work schemes and business support with money as well as powers and I pledge that we will work with you to ensure that your perspective is reflected in that legislation there’s widespread agreement that the country is facing the biggest housing crisis in a generation and just talking to some of you before I’ve ascended to this podium here and ask what’s the top of the agenda without exception every one of you has said housing and of course that’s because we’re building fewer homes than half the number we need people want to be able to own their own home but the percentage of people who own their own homes is falling and the age at which people get to buy their own homes has gone up to 33 which means more and more people continuing to live at home with their parents when they want to be in a home of their own and the government must do more to get new homes built we want people to be able to buy their own homes we want to see as many people as possible fulfilling that aspiration but the government’s proposals on extending the right to buy to housing associations risk making the housing crisis worse they plan to force housing associations which are after all independent organizations to sell homes to their tenants with a discount to be paid for by whistles selling off their most valuable homes their promise that every home sold would be replaced is not worth the paper it’s written on bearing in mind that though they made that promise for council homes for every ten sold only one was ultimately able to be built and forcing councils to sell high value properties would strip you of the ability to manage your own housing stock and lead to some quite bizarre outcomes like councils being forced to sell off new properties before even the first tenant has gone in so far the government have been wholly unconvincing in trying to show that this scheme could be made to work at all we’ll see what the government brings forward but any housing policy the test it must pass must be that it must ease rather than deepen the housing crisis so we won’t be supporting any proposal which effectively delivers a double whammy across housing associations and councils and doesn’t actually build the new homes that people need and when it comes to legislation we’re determined to ensure that the EU referendum doesn’t happen on the same day as any of your elections I think that that needs to be a separate day and if you agree with that and you don’t want to be standing for election in your area in your ward with the overhang of the discussion about Europe please do you know let your party

whichever it is no please do speak out on this the government is considering it at the moment but they needed need to hear it from you as well as from me so do let them know about that they’re coming back with some further thoughts about it in September and that is not on the same day and council elections in 2016 or in 2017 depending on when the referendum held as well as being elected yourselves you’re the gatekeepers of our democracy the framework is set in Westminster but you appoint the people responsible for running the electoral registration system over these years the system has developed a number of major flaw and the latest changes that the government has introduced is set to make the problem even worse the Electoral Commission estimate that already up to 7.5 million people are not on the Electoral Register but the people who are not registered are not evenly spread throughout the population if you’re over 60 white own your own home live in a non metropolitan area you will be on the Electoral Register but if you’re young black renting live in an inner city area you are very likely not to be on the Electoral Register this is discriminatory in the people who don’t get a right to vote it’s supposed to be that everyone has an equal right to vote but they don’t if there isn’t equality in the electoral register and it also undermines our democracy because it’s on the basis of the electoral registers as they will be at the end of this year that the new parliamentary constituency boundaries will be based so I hope that you will amongst all the other pressing demands on you address this fundamental problem by continuing crucial work to ensure that everyone who should be is only register by the end of this year we all know that part of the work of building trust in politics is making sure that people can see in politics a representative cross-section of society that means women as well as men it means people from our diverse ethnic communities people from all walks of life and all ages it’s great that it this conference there are counselors here in their 20s right up to people up to in their 70s and I’m not even talking about myself there this is not just about people seeing politicians who understand their lives it’s also about better decision-making bringing in vital first-hand understanding of the diversity of people’s very different lives it is not it avoids narrow group think a balanced and diverse team genuinely representative makes better decisions can I can conclude by reaffirming that you can count on us to hold the government to account and be a challenging opposition we want to work with you on that but there has got to be some challenge from within government too I’m sure you’ll all be glad you have a new Secretary of State you will all you will all see you will have seen his work on the city deals and you’ll be hearing from him later today he has a very important job in the cabinet unless he makes the case for and stands up for local government then local government will struggle and will not be able to achieve its future potential that you all know that it has for all that means for the economy as well as local communities and the people you represent will suffer speaking as someone who’s done 30 years of political service in Westminster some of the politicians I most admire from the round the country are people who’ve done decades of political services in local government so it’s been a pleasure to work with you thank you for what you do okay well thank you very much Harry I thought that was a really wide ranging and considerate speech you’ve clearly given a lot of farts that’s because recognizing how important local government is to government and to the way that we govern this country is vital of course so we’ve got around 10 minutes now for question and answers if glass at people indicate very clearly and the lights came up in the room now so I should be able to see people clearly enough wait for the the team to come with a microphone and when you do get the microphone please do tell us your name and the authority where you come from ok can you indicate if you have a

question thank you very much good morning I’m cancellous Andhra walk from test valley which is in hampshire housing is the top of our list we all agree that but over the past 10 or more years there are hundreds of thousands of permissions out there already granted not built so instead of trying to scuttle around and build more new ones why do we not lean on the people who have already got the permissions to get building what they’ve already got permission for ok we’re going to try and take these in groups of three and then I’ll take a safe and hurry about who best in the team to to Ansley so take the second question Oh solve here number four Jenny Lynn from Halifax cabinet member for skills and the environment in Calderdale and I’d like to hear a bit more about the problems that some of the residents in wards like mine experience where the real big issues are shortage of social housing to rent and really lousy conditions in some of our private rented sector yeah very good question any other questions okay we’ll take those two it may well prompt further questions so the first one then on stall sites and second one on housing condition I can it’s obviously a source of great annoyance when there’s pressure with planning applications for places which people feel are less suitable when you’ve got places which have got planning applications which are dormant and we did do some thinking through and discussing about this in relation to some sort of use it or lose it provisions and I think that you know there’s every reason to be working up an agreement about how that should be done you know nobody wants you know unwarranted no grabbing of land but actually land banking which has got permission and which is not being used where the value just appreciates and it’s just used as a capital asset and not being built on is very frustrating for everybody so i think that there’s work that we what’s the what’s the political situation in your authority sandra oh right sorry is it talk conservative sorry what’s the political another conservative okay okay so have you got your own plans about how you think that should be dealt with yes but you probably wouldn’t like to hear them I just take all the missions away take my duties away oh well well I’m sure we can work together on that but I’d the point about private rented is is very important I mean obviously one of the things that we’re seeing certainly in my neck of the woods is a lot of families in private rented accommodation where it’s creating major insecurity because they find the rent is put up and they’re hooked up and they dint complain when it needs maintenance or they just get turfed out so i think there’s there is work to be done on making sure that whilst we have availability in the private rented sector its of the right standard and security and i don’t know whether i could bring in emma here on this or Steve well I spoke to labour councillors yesterday and almost all the questions were on housing and there today we find the same I think as Harriet said in her speech we face an urgent and growing housing crisis that let’s face it successive governments have failed to get a grip on on the question about stall sites what we were trying to do when we were in opposition towards the end of the last Parliament was come up with proposals that essentially strengthen the hand of local authorities when they are faced with this situation because let’s face it some developers like to sit on the land and see if the value increases and there’s a lot of speculation around land which is one of the problems we’ve got such a big problem with getting houses built so we had a both a carrot and a stick approach but essentially we want to work with you to put pressure on government to make sure that local authorities are in a better position when it comes to these negotiations with developers not only for driving the number of affordable homes up on sites but also in terms of getting these sites built out on the private rented sector I thought we had very good proposals at an election since then obviously but I think we had some very good proposals around strengthening provisions for private tenants particularly around security of tenure because if you are settling now in the private rented sector because you can’t

get a council home or a Housing Association home and you can’t afford to get on the housing ladder then you are stuck in a situation where you only really have one year certainty and that’s rolled over year on year and as some landlords are very good and will give longer tenancies but that’s not the standard and again there are some conservative MPs I know as well as lots of Labour MPs who are worried about this and we will continue to put pressure on the government to do more about security of tenure and just very quickly again on Jenny’s point there’s a huge sorted shortage of social housing across the country this is acute in many of our urban areas but let’s not forget it’s really acute in our all areas as well and it’s something that the government needs to look at more carefully and we will be holding them to account on that too I mean we could possibly if we haven’t already done so do an amendment to the cities and local government devolution bill put forward an amendment about land banking and how we would deal with developers to kind of spark a a more focused discussion with government and with yourselves about actually remedying this very drafting an amendment as you sit there carry it off witness so we can still make sure that the LJ policy and it do make contact with the kind of the cross-party view from the Association on that and we can work in our own group centre kind of feed through the party structures we’ve got time for one or two more questions and then we’ll wrap up for the political guru meetings okay so I’ll take the one down here bored number two and then up the number one okay yeah okay Richard château a warrior County Council at a CCN conference last year had an opportunity to ask Jeremy on the Secretary of State for Health a question about the Care Act and the invitation attention of the Care Act and then particularly the pressure that has been putting on local authorities so far still haven’t really received enough information on that but the issue around the Care Act we were expecting p in our communities to deliver care and summer I am on the lowest wage is possible doing some of the most difficult jobs within our society how can we or I can the government attack this problem of low pay particular those people who are caring for older residents very good question and number one at the top it’s sort of San you out in Suffolk County Council it’s a sort of tradition for ministers and shadow ministers to come along to LGA conference and tell us all how wonderful all councillors are but as a counselor I think we maybe ought to be a bit honest about how rubbish some councillors are we have a counselor on Suffolk County Council who currently lives in North Carolina and visits Suffolk once or twice a year and picks up his allowances isn’t it about time we did something about the six month rule and made councillors actually do what they ought to be doing and stop bringing local politics into disrepute okay so we have a question on the care rats and a question and comment on the standards of counselors are counselors paving badly obviously nobody in this room but people who aren’t in this room perhaps Harriet well you know if there’s things which are being done wrong and out of order then the party who they’re representing needs to be getting on to it and you know the the the rules need to be you know adhered to an enforced but I think that so you know I’m not saying you know every individual is an absolute beacon of virtue but I’m saying that this is important work which we should have a bigger focus on it and it’s kind of there is a kind of secular trend going on here which we’ve got to go ahead of and not be left behind on because people have got higher and changing standards on this and they do want overall strategy they do want good decisive leadership but they actually want things closer to them on the ground as well and we mustn’t get left behind on that and this is this is for us to be thinking about you know doing better on this than than when we were in government and kind of locking it in so that it doesn’t be a situation where it’s asymmetrical you’re always very keen on it when you’re in opposition but somehow it doesn’t happen when you’re in government I mean we’ve got to find some way to lock that in on the Care Act obviously it’s a bit like a parallel with with childcare in the idea is that anybody can do it it can be low-skilled women’s work insecure lack of training lack of professional respect dedicated overstretch workforce but dealing with people with very high levels of

vulnerability I met a care of a group of care workers in the West Midlands who was saying that you know I have to supervise medication I have to put elderly people into a hoist and lift them I have to wash them and I’m regarded as unskilled and I know that if I went down the road to Tesco’s I would get a higher pay job and my children are losing out because I’m doing work in this sector and you know that that is not acceptable for the care workers and it’s not acceptable as a way of building good standards so it is something that we we’ve got to address and I think Steve wants to say something more on that yeah thanks Harriet I thought the problem we’ve got is we’ve got funding going down while demand is going up we’ve got an aging population we’ve got more and more older people the council’s have got less money to spend on these services so the way that they’re delivering them and they don’t see any other way to do it is putting pressure on the workforce on the front line we’re seeing horror stories like 15 minute visits care workers not being paid for the travel time between one visit and another and all of this is having an impact on the National Health Service as well where people because they’re not getting addict air in the home are left in the health service where the costs are higher than if we properly funded them to get the the home care that they deserve and that they need so we need to be looking at how we can bring the health services and the care services together together and integrate them better but I think we also need to be looking at how we’re treating those workers on the front line and there are very good examples if we look around the country that there’s a Sunderland care home is a workers cooperative that delivers care services and some of those there is Oldham up set up an ethical care company owned by the council but in both of those cases the workers have more voice a more ability to control other decisions decisions about how the services are operating and even within the same financial envelope they found ways to deliver better services and provide better job security at least a happier workforce that then performs better so we’re needing to look around for innovation in this whole area and as ever its local government that he’s showing us the way forward right thank you we’ve reached the end of our time I probably just kind of take the standards question head on really I mean it’s probably a universally held view in the room that the standards regime is toothless and that this should be far more air powers available to councillors to remove yet to remove those members who let the side down but let’s be honest democracy is a funny all drink at times electric will elect people who they know fully I’m not going to do the job and it may be a bit crazy and that’s the you know I said that’s the real world and again to caviar of course nobody in this room and no I think we’ve had a really fantastic session can we show our appreciation to our panel members