Labour’s councillors need a voice with the Open Left

Local Government is historically where Labour’s heart and energy has come from. The day to day frontline work of hundreds of Labour Councillors at this time has been a source of vital connection with communities and can help renew and revitalise the Party from below.

Coucillors are also some of the biggest coordinators and funders of Labour’s activism. We provide community leadership in the face of cuts, mitigating the impact centralised political structures and leading the local political fight against them. We provide the so called ‘dented shield’, but we also innovate local service delivery and we speak for our communities. We have the ideas and experiences to shape the future, but we need to be heard. Working with local citizens to build from below we have found in the #Covid19 Crisis the need for genuine community-based politics has never been greater.

Open Labour stands for proper plural and devolved politics, based on local democratic structures that empower communities and build the relationships that will lead a progressive agenda for the future. We stand for transformation in our economy and services, but we also see the importance of decentralised, devolved and local ways of doing it.

These are the reasons why we are launching an Open Labour Councillors Network (OLCN) – by working together with our supporters and allies in local government, we will connect the vital experience of Labour Councillors the decentralised and socialist agenda of the plural left. We are kicking off the network with challenge , discussion, and by developing policies and ideas, and recently began with this debate involving Steve Reed MP, Labour’s Shadow Local Government Minister.

The Network will continue to debate the ideas that will help Labour build on the work and ideas of local Councillors and councils – a platform to reshape a local socialism, transcend beyond the centralised model we have now, and challenge the legacy of Labour’s own centralist past. By doing this, we hope to think beyond the elite structures sometimes favoured among socialists that can unwittingly concentrate power in very few hands.

“The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away” – Aneurin Bevan

The untapped skills and resources of Labour councillors are a huge asset for the future. We need to be shaping the agenda not just implementing instructions from above. Elected Councillors expertise and knowledge musts to be at the heart of a renewed local Labour agenda throughout the UK. Such an approach is within our grasp and can provide a vital cauldron of ideas and testbed for a Labour Government .

Being a Labour Councillor has to be about more than administering, or managing decline. We need safer, stronger, and more diverse local areas, places that can use their assets to thrive economically and culturally, and can build political beacons for the common good. We can only get there with a politics that involves people, democratises local life, and decentralises power into our communities.

Open Labour tackles issues in a practical but plural way; the practice of ‘open politics’. Councillors have vast knowledge and experience that can aid the party if there’s a sensible and coherent network to help articulate it, so we hope to offer just that. The OLCN will be the voice of the open left in Councils across the UK join us and help shape the future, so if you are a local Councillor, we would love you to be  involved in building it – please get in touch with the rest of us!

Cllr Ralph Berry, Bradford Council
Open Labour National Committee & Co-ordinator, Open Labour Councillor Network

Get involved in the Councillors network – write to us at admin @ openabour. org. uk

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