Stella Creasy: Labour must provide more support to its councillors

Putting time and effort into developing our local government base is about more than ensuring foot soldiers to fight the next General Election


Thirteen years ago, as a first time candidate, I worried that local government didn’t get the attention it deserved.

The last five years has put our councillors and the hard work they do front and centre of politics as they battle to protect their communities from this government’s brutal cuts – and rightly so. In the run up to the next election it is through the innovation they lead that we can show how we make a difference. We don’t have to wait to win in 2020 to prove Labour provides not just opposition to the Tories but an alternative – and in doing so why you want us in office nationally too.

In helping lead Labour’s renewal, our councillors need more than warm words from their party colleagues. Their expertise, experience and energy needs to channelled not as an afterthought but as equals. That means getting three things right – how we recruit and retain people at our grassroots, training and development of their skills to do this role and the networks, power and relationships they have throughout our movement to ensure their voice is heard.

Many talk of the narrow range of our PLP, but barriers to participation exist at a local level too. Lengthy evening meetings, expectations about time commitments and limited support for administration or caring responsibilities for candidates, makes ensuring our party looks like the communities it represents hard work. We need direct diversity funding to help overcome these obstacles for potential local leaders as part of not just a future candidates, but future members, programme.

The party could also match fund Labour Groups to run their own recruitment projects and community campaigns, giving them the freedom and flexibility to design schemes that work in their area.

These challenges point to how we advocate and develop not just the work of local councillors, but do this alongside the wider Labour movement. The LGA’s future leaders programme is a good example of a quality, structured training scheme but only open to a select few. Some councils like Manchester are now thinking about starting their own schemes.

Labour needs a national training academy linking in with our partners in the trade union movement and wider civic society that can give a wide range of people a taster for how local and national government works as well as supporting leadership and delivery skills.

Here the Association of Labour Councillors could play a key role – indeed a better resourced ALC could also arm our councillors and future candidates with a range of tools for their work on the ground, offering briefings and campaign materials to as well as forums for best practice and networking.

Getting selected or championing a local cause is one thing, feeling you can get things done is another. Like many when I was first elected as a councillor I was thrown in at the deep end, with little or no training and an expectation I would just ‘get on with it’ and figure out what the job entailed. Too many find themselves stuck in meetings at their town halls and stymied in leading the community work they want to do, going to LGA events to share stories of the frustrations of dealing with colleagues, neighbouring authorities or national government.

Getting the best out of our local leaders isn’t just about a compelling case for local communities for their support at the ballot box. It’s also about recognising and learning from the insight they can offer for effective governance and so the role they play at the heart of our national party too.

As a former councillor turned MP, the question of how this will work out on the ground is the first thing I ask of any policy. Having the leader of the LGA Labour Group in our shadow cabinet would be a start, but we also need to ensure Labour councillors and candidates – whether through greater representation on the NEC, NPF or regional forums – are embedded in our policy making too.

That shouldn’t just be through formal meetings – I’d like to encourage an expectation that councillors and future leaders are routinely brought in to work with MPs and shadow departmental teams helping tie up national ambition with practical delivery.

Putting time and effort into developing our local government base is about more than ensuring foot soldiers to fight the next General Election. It is to recognise and respect their role in leading social and political change for Britain alongside the rest of the Labour movement.

To make that happen is why I’m standing to be Deputy Leader. You cannot do this from a back office in Westminster – we don’t just need to give power to the grassroots, but create it by building a movement that once more capable of changing not just the communities we serve, but the country itself.

Stella Creasy is the Labour and Co-op MP for Walthamstow and is standing for the deputy leadership of the party. Follow her on Twitter 

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9 Responses to “Stella Creasy: Labour must provide more support to its councillors”

  1. David Brede

    We need to get candidates in place early so that they can start the work sooner rather than just before the election.

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  4. pauline wallis

    I became a Labour party member after years of being a Trade Unionist. I have been a local Labour counciilor in Milton Keynes for 3 years . I am up for election next year. I was undecided whether to stand again or not. I worked hard to win my seat it took three attempts. G.M.B. helped me in the end because I would of stopped trying. I have worked in the community where I live for years and been a parish councillor, a school governor, Held secretaty of Milton Keynes for 2 years but, also work full time as a security officer.
    The last year has been very bad for me. personnel reasons and events plunged me into depression. I still worked full time in security still did my council work case work meetings. But really I disliked the Tory running council so much It was all I could do to stop myself leaping over the chamber to knock them out.

    We gained control in 2014 with a small majority. The Lib-Dem`s and Tories were horrible to us.They flatly refused to back on most of things we wanted to do. We introduced living wage, Black listing was brought up and the council policy has been changed.We each of us, 26 work extremely hard trying to help people. The bed room tax benefit changes, shortage of housing has had a profound effect on us.The national result floored us.Are we sure it was not the Tories manipulating figures again? I think even though membership for the Labour party has increased and the same for G.M.B.But can will build on the momentum Please.
    We are getting more cases all the time of people struggling to get by. If I had a £1 for every time I have heard `but I have worked hard all my life never claimed benefits` think I would be a millionaire now.
    The Tories did divide and rule tactics as they do, so some less enlightened think someone is getting something for nothing.
    When you say to them,this is what I would do, those who can should those who cannot get help, they go away less aggreived and help them selves. Those poor people who cannot are penalised for having little understanding of how to take charge and do things for themselves. Which means we councillor`s are having more and more pressure put on us.
    I would hope that we elect someone like Ed Milliband again for I feel he was excellent. The party were too quick to let him go. or rather accept his resigniation. The only way is to continue on the left and hold true to our core ideals. if that means bringing out Ed`s Dad so be it. (Jeremy).
    if we do not hold true we have lost the union vote as even though a lot have joined the Labour party they are not expecting too much from any of you. We are not militant strike happy people, just decent human beings who want social equality, social awareness that life should not be putting us back to the days of our grand parents. Our kids are going to find it hard to buy a house. The reason being if they have any sense they will take this first time buyer stunt with a pinch of salt. Any missed payments and its
    game over. the bank will grab it back.
    There are no good Tories they have been inoculated at birth to believe they have a divine right to rule and the rest of us are fodder to be used for their ends. look at them laughing in Houses of parliament. they are laughing at our expense. they know what buttons to push to make( us) Labour look bad. I never heard anyone defending us. We should of been shouting from the roof tops about all the schools we built all the hospitals, workers rights. Tax credits. Reducing people pride back in their lives. Taking all of those children out of poverty and now look. Back to square one. OMG someone please get a grip before its too late.

  5. Mokhtar Hussain

    I agree with most of your ideas however there are issues that needs addressing first,before we start implementing any of proposed strategies to build our party to win the next election and form a labour government.
    I suggest our leadership hold meetings across the u.k. among the members and supporters of labour ideologies.
    First of all I would like to see changes with in our grassroots there are some C.L.P s are ran in a way that I would say undemocratic no where near to labour values or labour ideologies.
    Next I would like to see labour membership drive and reduced annual membership fee across to board
    and all labour candidates local or national must show that they are activist first and must recruit a set numbers of members to be able to qualify to be on the candidate list for short listing this can be one of the selection criterias.
    I would like to see our agisting experience M.Ps take on chelanging seats and win they should not be allowed to sit on there safe seats for rest of their political life.
    All of us must be focussed on one thing that is to get back in government and after that we can start making the changes we need to to improve living standards of the nation.

  6. Responsibility

    Totally agree with you Pauline – I did come up to MK to help with your electioneering from Chesham & Amersham back in 2014. Keep up with the good work. I am sure that what goes around comes around, hopefully those Tory liars will implode themselves very soon!!!

  7. charles smith

    Leading by example would seem to me a necessary, if simplistic, way for labour mp’s and supporters to behave. The vast majority of people i know are living examples of labour values of working together and having compassion for others. Some of them do not support or identify with the labour party but never the less, embody the spirit of the movement. Calmness and conviction coupled with a modest self awareness will win the next election not seeing every aspect of policy in terms of point scoring factionalism. Qualities to be looked for in leaders are the abilities to project this image of confident conviction. All the candidates have my approval, none less than Stella Creasy.

  8. Bay25

    I’m not a councillor, but did stand as a ward Labour candidate in the (then) UKIP held seat of Rochester & Strood. I also canvassed heavily in my own Gillingham constituency. These are seats Labour needs to win again to gain power.

    I’m less concerned by the rise of UKIP than others. Having spoken to numerous UKIP supporters on the doorstep what they really seem to want is a party to speak up for them, they want a political relationship based on more than dry economics. Huge numbers are the former bedrock of our party. I sincerely believe we can win these former supporters back when we present a big picture of how their country will look when life prospects don’t depend on the post code you grow up in. Where elderly people get 1st rate community care, delivered by home carers given time to care and a pay package which reflects the vital work they do. Homecare brought into the NHS would be a good start. Nationalise the railways and call time on the profiteering monopolists in Utilities would also be popular policies with these voters, as well as most other voters!
    My impression too is the majority of UKIP voters aren’t racist. There are of course bigots in all walks of life, but complaints about immigration were hardly ever accompanied by bigotry, but rather the effect it was having on NHS/wages/rents etc. These are Labour issues.
    We can also be proudly English. This is the country of Magna Carta, Peasant’s revolt, English Civil war Chartists, Suffragettes. We also invented football, defeated the Nazis and spear guarded the 60’s cultural/progressive revolution.

    I think we should expressly reject the ongoing 1979-80 Thatcher/Reagan economic consensus. As the Atlee consensus was rejected by Mrs Thatcher, we should explain why this model inevitably leads to excessive concentrations of wealth/power and massive social inequality, not even mitigated by increased social mobility. Social mobility is important because we absolutely want to be seen as the party for those without a lot now, but who want to be a able to improve their financial circumstances. After Osbourne’s budget the young are even more exposed to low wages and reduced prospects. Let’s stick up for them.

    I also agree that making local Labour party procedure less arcane would help to bring in new members. But of course they’ve got to want to join the party in the first place. Let’s get people excited and enthused about Labour again. A more emotional appeal to their own interests as well as the better angels of their nature.

  9. Cllr Glenn Dennis

    Under your stewardship, what will you do about the ALC to help it be more effective in supporting Labour councillors, rather than just taking cash from their allowances.

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