Thursday, February 18, 2010

John Lewis on the South Bank?

Please excuse a moment's parochialism but I've just read that I'm working for (and helping to represent the crew of) a "flagship" local authority. (http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gmg/op/shwZrHD-cyWjrrz3VgWirMw/view.m?id=326430&tid=120787&cat=Search).



Lambeth is going to be the "John Lewis" local authority - a neat allusion to a co-operative enterprise with a reputation for quality (but one which may offer hostages to fortune).



My initial reaction (like any sane local government union Branch Secretary) is that it worries me when the media show an interest in my employer. There are too many complex things that can go wrong in a local authority and bad news always makes better headlines.



That said I think Lambeth's Labour Group do deserve some credit for - in effect - thinking ahead about how a Labour Council will deal with year after year of Tory spending cuts.



After the defeat of the struggle against rate-capping in 1986 all we had by way of Labour policy in local government was Neil Kinnock's "dented shield" - an attempt to be less bad than the Tories that posed no challenge to a Government attacking public services.



If some flesh can be put on the bones of the "John Lewis" approach then perhaps it offers a qualitatively distinct social democratic approach to local government rather than one which aspires simply to be quantitatively less bad than the Tories(and perhaps we could find a better name?)



One thing is certain - workers in Lambeth will need union organisation to protect our interests in uncertain times!

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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