I have just made my submission to Labour’s Democracy Review on Local Government. It consists of proposals about candidate selection, labour’s governance (Groups and Labour Committees), Direct Mayors and recalling/dismissing Leaders.  The current local government candidate selection process and Labour Group governance rules gives a massive advantage to incumbents vs. challengers. If we are to meet our aspirations of representing the community and its most disadvantaged, we need to do better. …

The interviewing panels for candidate selection must consist of a broad and representative spectrum of opinion within the party and be fair and disinterested. Decisions taken by panel members must be taken in good faith and subject to the rules of the Party.

Public representatives with a pecuniary interest in the selection should be excluded from selection & appeals panels.

At appeals, members must be allowed to be accompanied by a representative or friend who must be allowed to speak.

Candidate panels must be large enough to offer a choice to all participating organisations.

The procedural guidelines for the selection must be available to all members.

The current rules and practice for the setting of freeze dates for local government selections is open to abuse. The freeze dates should be set relative to the public election dates.

In 2016, the NEC introduced “trigger ballots” for incumbent councillors. This should be reversed. It gives too much of an advantage to incumbents and together with freeze dates diminishes the influence of new members. The Party survived for decades without this ‘protection’; it is unnecessary.

Local Campaign forums are too small and often dominated by sitting councillors. They are unsuitable as organisations for holding a Labour Group to account to the Party. They should be replaced with organisations accountable to local parties and affiliates.

Rule Chapter 1.X needs a new clause stating that all Labour public office holders, all Labour Party officers, staff and role holders are expected to conform to the 7 principles of public life (the Nolan Principles) published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Labour Group meetings must be accessible to observers from CLPs, who must not themselves be councillors. Minutes of Group decisions must be accessible to party members in a timely manner.

Whipped decisions should be the outcome of Group decisions, and not the autonomous decision of the Chief Whip.

It is essential that complaints against councillors are dealt with in a timely manner, and not stalled or manipulated around key dates like purdah.

Councillor contracts must be robust. They should be published within the party and be accessible to branches.

Labour Councillors must declare interests, particularly in relation to directorships, rental income and property ownership. . All interests must be declared, not just those in the resident local authority.

Where councillors genuinely divide their time between two addresses, they should only qualify to sit as councillors through their main residential address. Claiming to live at an address which is in fact rented out while they live at another address should be treated as a serious offence liable to expulsion. This issue also impacts eligibility to stand.

The levy collected from councillors by Labour Groups should be controlled by the LCF/LGC. Accounts should be available to members of the LCF/LGC annually. Surpluses above a prudent reserve should be remitted to CLPs at the end of the accounting period. Failure to pay the 2% minimum levy should be treated as a serious offence unless the Chief Whip is satisfied that a waiver should apply because of genuine financial difficulty.

Councillors should have the right to remove a Group Leader by simple majority vote. This should be used only in serious cases involving such issues as gross misconduct, serious criminal offences, and being subject to Labour Party disciplinary processes under Chapters 4 and 13 of the Rule Book.

Labour members elected to serve as Directly Elected Mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners and Combined Authority Mayors may not be selected as a candidate for more than two consecutive terms. There should be an open selection for each term.

Directly elected mayors with entrenched and reserved powers of initiative and decree are undemocratic. They are contrary to the British tradition of collective government and representative democracy. Labour should aspire to replace them.

Selection for candidates for ‘list’ elections, should be amended such that incumbents no longer get the reserved top places; if they can’t beat challengers without this help, then they probably don’t deserve the top places. Additionally, two additional places on the shortlist should be selected to act a reserve in the case that candidates have to drop out. (The only ‘list’ elections held in England are the GLA, London wide seats and the European Parliamentary selections.) The membership need more say and power in these selections, frequently, the only decision that members get is the ordering of the candidates, within the list. It’s not enough.

Labour and local government
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