In May the Labour Group on Brighton and Hove reaffirmed its formal status as a “Labour and Co-operative Group”, and to building in to our manifesto for next May the co-operative principles of self-help, social responsibility and equality.
We have pledged to establish, as one of the first acts of a newly elected Labour and Co-operative Council, a Fairness Commission to tackle poverty and financial exclusion, boost opportunity and equality, and bring together the work that is being done across the city to improve the life chances of over eleven thousand of our neighbours in the city.
We will seek to win back the trust of voters lost by the Greens, ensure our basic services are delivered well, and face up to the huge challenges they have put off in their attempts to hold their fractious Party together.
Our greatest challenge comes from the cuts to the city council’s funding; over £100 million across a four year period. Those are not one-off cuts that can be met from reserves, but year-on-year reductions in our budget for local services. These are cuts on an unprecedented scale, ones that cannot be offset by increases in fees and charges, new business rates or increases in council tax.
Such significant cuts to the city council’s funding will demand, unavoidably, a radical rethink of what the council does and how it does it. There is no doubt the decisions we will have to make – the Greens having deferred them – will be hard. The council will increasingly be a partner in the delivery of services, a regulator, a connector more than a provider.
The work of Labour councils in the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network mean we are not alone in meeting these challenges, and we are not starting from scratch. Drawing from their examples we are well advanced with our manifesto process, but welcome submissions via firstname.lastname@example.org or the form below. In the coming week I will be writing to 50 key organisations across the city asking them what they would like to see from a Labour and Co-operative council.
We are also well advanced in selecting candidates across the city, and their campaigning has already seen results in the May elections where Labour beat the Greens convincingly, coming from 10,000 votes behind to 2,000 votes ahead. We should not be complacent, and we will work to ensure that voters unhappy with the dismal performance of the Greens (recycling continues to fall in figures published this week) choose Labour as the team capable of delivering the progress this city needs.
With positive policies and a forward looking co-operative agenda, we will seek to devolve power to local people, creating fair, collaborative, resilient and democratic communities, where responsibilities and benefits are shared.
Through those positive campaigns and with those strong candidates in our communities we will, by this time next year, make our goal of a co-operative council a reality.