Friday, 25 August 2017

A Message from the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Gwynne MP

This is the first opportunity I have had to address everyone since the General Election, and I want to thank every single Labour councillor for the time and energy they committed during the campaign. Although we were not able to form the Labour Government that this country needs, the hard work of campaigners has severely weakened the position of the Conservatives, and made it difficult for them to pass the damaging legislation they planned prior to the election. The infighting and the shabby deal patched together with the DUP will not go unmissed by the electorate, and we have already seen U-turns on the policies they presented in their election manifesto.

After the election, I was delighted to be asked by the Leader to take up the role of Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the Shadow Cabinet, and I’ve since put together a strong team, with Jim McMahon leading on finance and devolution, Yvonne Fovargue leading on services and community cohesion, and Stephen Morgan as my PPS. As I set out in my speech to the LGA conference last month, we will be working closely with Labour councillors, the ALC, and the LGA Labour Group and leader, Cllr. Nick Forbes. I will be personally reaching out and arranging meetings with council leaders over the next months, but please do not hesitate to contact to discuss any issues you feel we need to raise.

Parliament is now in recess but we haven’t stopped attempting to get clarity and answers from the government. With the Local Government Finance Bill now seemingly scrapped, I am continuing to attempt to get answers from the government on local government finance and their plans for business rate retention. I’ve asked the Secretary of State, 6 times to provide some clarity on how the government will address the funding black hole in local government finance.

Following the tragedy in Grenfell, this has been a difficult and challenging time for local authorities, but one which the sector has responded to with the urgency that it requires. I want to pay tribute to the leadership, competence and empathy that has been sorely lacking in central government, and from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He has failed as the 'champion' of local government in Westminster, but as the response from my speech to LGA conference demonstrated — people are ready for a change and are looking to us to provide the leadership that has been missing for far too long.

With the instability of the Conservative Party at present I was asked to stay on as co-National Campaign and Elections Coordinator, and I'm looking forward to helping to run an effective local election campaign next May, where we will have an opportunity to highlight how the Government are failing to deliver on local services. Labour will build on the growth of the recent General Election and lead one biggest people-driven campaign in UK history. Labour wants to see a country based on hope and shared prosperity and Labour councils are already working to achieve this. I look forward to strengthening our voice in local government next year — challenging the division created by seven years of Tory failure, and showing the difference that Labour can make when we are in power.

Despite the challenges in recent years, Labour councillors have been at the forefront of protecting our communities and the local services that people rely on — and I want to thank you all for the contribution you have made to this. I look forward to working with you to extend the good work you already do — as your Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government I will show the Government what can be done when local government gets more freedom to innovate to meet the needs of their communities, and then as your Secretary of State I will work with you to make it happen.

Andrew Gwynne MP

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