“Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF) launched its 2023 consultation on Monday 30 January.””Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF) launched its 2023 consultation on Monday 30 January. [It] is open to branch and constituency Labour parties; affiliates such as trade unions and socialist societies; and external stakeholders such as charities, think tanks, businesses and civil society groups.”
You can read the guidance here.
What it means is that random members of the public like me cannot respond – which is fair enough as I’m not a member. It does however, invite third party organisations to make submissions to the party – and many of these will include campaigning charities and organisations that historically provide unofficial public policy experience for individuals that later go onto stand for Parliament – not just for Labour but other parties too. Dr Stella Creasy MP is one such example – she wrote a Ph.D thesis for the London School of Economic and Political Sciences (The LSE) on social exclusion – a thesis which you can read here.
“Isn’t this just Labour’s version of Levelling Up?”
That’s for you to judge.
Six policy commissions open for comment
- Delivering growth;
- The everyday economy;
- Empowered communities;
- Prevention, early intervention and better public services for all;
- Supporting families; and
- Labour’s progressive trade policy.
The bit that I’m interested in is empowered communities – because it’s one of my old policy areas during my civil service days under the last Labour government. That’s not to say this post is about ‘what I think’. It’s not my place to do so. Rather, this blogpost is more a signpost to past policy documents published by previous Labour governments and institutions with sympathetic dispositions towards progressive social policies. The latter of these will be ones that the Liberal Democrats and The Green Party may also be interested in. The purpose is to encourage members of political parties and campaign groups to have a look back at past publications and to see both what is still applicable today, and what did not work with previous policies.
Safe and Secure Communities – the report accompanying the Empowered Communities theme
“Safe and secure communities explores how Labour can make our communities safer and more empowered, from tackling anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood crime, to reducing reoffending and giving power to local people.”Labour Policy Forum – Empowered Communities. 30 Jan 2023
Back in 2006 the then new Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly launched a White Paper / major policy document called Strong and Prosperous Communities, published in 2006. <<– Read it here, especially if you are a local councillor!
That year was one hell of a rollercoaster of a year for me – threatened with redundancy at the start of the year, then promoted two grades and transferred to London in what was intended to be a major improvement in central-local relations. I arrived in London as a fresh-faced mid-20-something who had finally ‘made it’. And I was thrown into the deep end on Local Area Agreements / Local Government Reform policy, which I wrote about here and the Cambridgeshire context. In the end a huge amount of work came to absolutely nothing because Eric Pickles and the Coalition were opposed to the whole infrastructure of regional government and monitoring/evaluation. One of Pickles’ legacies was all but to destroy local government in England. Three committees of MPs concluded this over the past couple of years:
- Local Government Audit – “System of local government audit close to “breaking point”” by the Public Accounts Committee on 14 July 2021
- Local Government Finance – “Council finances unsustainable without reform, say MPsCouncil finances unsustainable without reform, say MPs” by the Commons Levelling Up Committee (the old Communities and Local Government Select Committee) on 19 July 2021
- Local Government Structures, Systems, Processes, and Boundaries – “System of government in England in need of serious overhaul, say MPs” – Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 31 October 2022
This in part explains the problems we face today, as I blogged about in my previous blogpost
Labour’s consultation has framed their questions more narrowly than in previous approaches in Government. You can read the questions here – scrolling down to the first pink slide on the scribd window.
Compare the above to the White Paper launched by Hazel Blears called Communities in Control, in 2008 – noting the contents page screengrabbed below.
Cambridge & Cambridgeshire residents may well be interested in the middle chapters given their experiences of the Combined Authority and the Greater Cambridge Partnership.
“This is not about making people sit in meetings on wet Tuesday nights, it is about helping citizens to get involved when they want to on their own terms – paving the way for a new style of active politics that not only gives people a greater say but ensures that their voices are heard and that their views will make a difference.”Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Communities in Control, p7 – 09 July 2008,
Again, I’m not going to pass comment. For Labour Party members and members of affiliated organisations such as the Co-operative Party (note the number of Labour MPs who are listed as Co-operative Party MPs as well), its up to you whether you choose to browse through those documents, and which bits. Public policy documents are written for reference rather than as something to be read cover-to-cover.
Above – Labour & Co-operative Party MPs as of February 2023
“That’s already far too much reading already!!!”
Welcome to the world of public policy – where you often have to make decisions without all of the information you want and need to hand. That’s what makes it much more complex than making components in a factory: the uncertainties you have to deal with. Hence why in recent decades the study of behavioural economics has emerged. Slogans like ‘choice is good’ ended up ringing hollow because amongst other things the strong assumptions underlying them turned out to be unrealistic. For example having the level of knowledge and the amount of time to process all of the nutritional information on every cereal box out of the dozens of choices before picking one. Hence having things like the traffic light system for processed foods.
Case studies from previous pilot schemes
I’ll pick this one from one area I worked with in Oldham – where I made a couple of visits. This made a significant difference to people’s perceptions of crime and anti-social behaviour. These are Neighbourhood Agreements which a local community development officer Max Moar developed.
Above – you can read “Peace and Quiet” here
The most important aspect of the Neighbourhood Agreements was the process. Rather than imposing the same conditions on each neighbourhood, all local public service providers got together with local businesses and community groups to agree to a set of actions and behaviours in order to reduce crime. One of the changes made was to redesign and re-route neighbourhood policing patrols so that officers would routinely be in places where reports of anti-social behaviour were frequent. The result? Reduced anti-social behaviour **and** the feeling from residents that there were more neighbourhood police on the street. And yet the police did not bring in additional resources – they simply changed their working practices in response to the public’s detailed feedback. This was alongside a host of co-ordinated actions from other organisations.
Again, that example above wasn’t a ‘copy and paste’ example. The whole idea of the process is that you get a different outcome for different areas depending on their needs and local resources. For example in Cambridge, Cambridge United Football Club has a community trust that does extensive work both in one of Cambridge’s most economically deprived wards (Abbey) as well as across our city. But not every community has a professional football club on their doorstep.
Real old skool stuff – The Fabian Society’s digital archive
Above – you can browse through the huge catalogue of articles in the LSE’s digital library
From that pamphlet (Which you can read here), how many of the issues sound familiar today?
“How autonomous are local authorities?”
Here’s Cllr Dr Alexandra Bulat (Labour – Abbey) addressing Cambridgeshire County Council on the impact of central government austerity imposed by successive Conservative Governments.
You can have a look at the data online for your local council areas yourselves in the House of Commons Library here. The charts reflect the collapse in funding. Take Cambridge City Council below as an example.
Above: Cambridge – the greatest small city in the world, governed like an effing market town.
Yes, you can quote me on that.
Don’t forget the importance of lifelong learning – in particular the things that we weren’t taught at school. Previous generations used to be red hot on this – such as Arthur Greenwood (later a Labour minister) who wrote The Education of the Citizen.
Above – for those of you that like paper copies, the reprint of Arthur Greenwood’s book can be ordered here, while the Politics for Beginners (aimed at children) can be bought individually or as part of a box set <<– One of these should be in every children’s public library.
Alternatively you can take Mark Thomas’s route of minor dissent. Just don’t do anything that might get you jailed. Not on my account anyway! Food for thought?