Labour vows: no deviation on reform

3 Feb 00
Ministers will lead a robust reaffirmation of government policy at Labour's Local Governance conference this weekend when they will tell local authorities in blunt terms to 'reform or die'.

04 February 2000

The party's top brass, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, will tell delegates that Labour will not deviate or backtrack from its reform programme and that wholesale change at local level is inevitable.

'We are pressing ahead with reform and we ain't turning back,' said one party insider. Otherwise councils will 'wither and die', he added.

Local government minister Hilary Armstrong will tell delegates, many of them opposed to the reforms embarked upon, that the need for new political arrangements and good quality local leadership is essential.

Speaking on February 5, she will also try to allay fears over the prominence – or the lack of it, according to some critics – given to scrutiny in the local government bill currently passing through Parliament. Armstrong will claim it is an 'integral part' of the 'modernisation' process.

Her pleas look likely to fall on deaf ears. On the same day, a group known as the Labour Campaign for Open Local Government will hold a fringe meeting outlining fears that the new political arrangements will result in ineffective scrutiny and secrecy.

Ministers will use the party's best practice awards – to be presented by Tony Blair – to illustrate what can be achieved by councils which reform.

Among those authorities put forward as model modern examples will be the London boroughs of Enfield and Hammersmith & Fulham, Hartlepool Borough Council and Barnsley Metropolitan Council. All have introduced political and management changes which ministers believe have had considerable effect.

'This [process] is about leadership and it is clear that, where the thing is done properly and led well, it is making change,' said the party insider.

Armstrong is also expected to highlight the role the public sector can take in tackling social exclusion.

Speaking on February 6, Blair is expected to focus attention on the government's education reform programme.


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