Local leaders set out route for Labour to deliver ambitions in government

Council leaders have set out a roadmap for reforming public services and rebuilding trust under a future Labour government, starting with giving meaningful power and influence to communities. 

In the context of heavily constrained public spending, the group of seven Labour leaders say the party will need to focus on making better use of existing money if it is to deliver meaningful change.

Their intervention feeds into Labour’s slated Take Back Control Act, offering locally rooted, community-powered solutions to huge issues from poor health, to inequality, to failing high streets.

It also addresses Keir Starmer’s ambitions to end what he calls ‘sticking-plaster politics’, by focusing on early intervention and prevention.

Proposals include:

  • Giving communities real opportunities to take back control through new rights to own local buildings and to shape public services.
  • Giving councils stronger powers to respond to their communities’ priorities including tougher enforcement powers, getting a better deal from developers and increasing the baseline for social value in public procurement. 
  • Putting devolution centre of a new government’s agenda by setting out a renewed, universal approach to redistributing power out of Westminster to regions, councils and directly to neighbourhoods.
  • Shifting public spending towards early intervention and prevention by combining existing public service budgets into local place-based budgets.
  • Putting people in the centre of service design through a new Community Impact Duty which would require all public services and agencies to consider the impact of decisions on relevant communities.
  • Ending the fragile and uncertain system of local funding by committing to long term financial settlements for councils lasting three to five years in the first Comprehensive Spending Review.  

The paper includes examples of councils already taking innovative approaches to working with their communities to run better services and improve places despite heavy resource constraints.

Their experience of delivering against the odds has practical lessons for a future Labour Government. For example, in Manchester Early Help Hubs have supported over 10,000 families before they reach crisis, reducing the proportion of children in care. In Islington the council has used its role negotiating developer contributions to introduce peppercorn rents for local businesses. And in South Tyneside, the council has gathered more than 200 organisations to pledge to spend in and recruit from the local area.

Cllr Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council, co-authored the paper. She says:

“A Labour government would inherit public services in crisis, yet from day one it will need to demonstrate a different way of doing government and empowering communities. Traditional top-down decision-making is hoarding too much power at the centre, and change will need to come from the grassroots up.

“In Manchester we’ve reformed how public services work together, and invested heavily in early intervention, and we’ve seen tangible positive outcomes for families, with a reduced need for services down the line. This is a window into what the next Labour government could do. This is not about spending more money, but about spending money differently and better.”

Co-author Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, leader of Islington Council, says:

“In a world where trust in institutions is low, politicians can’t stick with the status quo of forcing change on people without their input. We need to make decisions with the people we represent, not for them. Community power involves listening to the concerns of our constituents and bringing them with us to create a fairer society.

“In Islington, we have listened to local people and through the use of progressive procurement and social value, we can make sure wealth is distributed more equally to those who need it most. That is just one of the ways in which a future Labour Government could give councils more powers to make a material difference to people’s lives.”

Co-author Peter Mason, Leader of Ealing Council, says:

“Time and time again, our communities and neighbourhoods have pulled together in response to crisis, and we have started to take it for granted. We need to re-focus government so that it can work with people in a way that recognises and values their expertise, and acknowledges that they know best about their places, and about what they need.

“Government and the public sector at all levels should be about creating resilient communities, rooted in places full of pride and identity. It should be about trusting the British people to understand that compromise is often more practical than consensus. This report describes what we need to collectively work towards, and how we can realise a Labour Vision for Community Power.”


  • A Labour vision for community power: Participation, Prevention and Devolution is available here from 00.01 on Tuesday 26 September.  
  • It was authored by Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, leader of Islington Council; Cllr Bev Craig, is leader of Manchester City Council; Cllr Tracey Dixon, leader of South Tyneside Council; Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council; Cllr Denise Jeffery, leader of Wakefield Council; Cllr Peter Mason, leader of Ealing Council and Cllr Kieron Williams, leader of Southwark Council. Kim Leadbeater MP wrote the foreword.
  • It was supported by New Local, Local Trust, Power to Change and the Co-operative Party.  
  • Keir Starmer’s New Year’s Speech 2023 promised a new “Take Back Control Bill” that would devolve power out of Westminster and towards councils and communities.  
  • For any questions or interview requests please contact Katy Oglethorpe, Director of Communications, New Local – katy@newlocal.org.uk, 0791 2161 536.

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