Corbyn says Labour councils WILL bring services back ‘in-house’
Election pledge: Council leader Georgia Gould says insourcing will be 'first option' as contracts come up
12 April, 2018 — By Richard Osley
Jeremy Corbyn at Labour’s campaign launch with Westminster council candidate Zayna Ali, Camden leader Georgia Gould and London Mayor Sadiq Khan
JEREMY Corbyn said Labour-run councils like Camden will be expected to bring services back in-house as he launched the party’s final push before local elections.
In what would be a striking retreat from two decades of privatisation across local government, the Labour leader said his party wanted to move swiftly to see services run directly by the Town Hall.
“Where they can legally be taken back in-house quickly, I know Labour councils will,” said Mr Corbyn. “Where it takes longer, Labour councils will hold the companies to account.”
He was answering a direct question from the New Journal as he spoke from the stage at a high-profile campaign launch at the Institute of Engineering and Technology on the Embankment, an event at which London Mayor Sadiq Khan also appeared and Camden’s Georgia Gould was selected to represent the capital’s Labour council leaders and councillors.
Plans for a return to council-run services have largely sailed under the radar ahead of the May 3 elections in terms of media attention, but they could have wide-ranging ramifications if local authorities are encouraged to cut ties with big operators running a plethora of services, including care services, waste collection, housing repairs and parking enforcement. In theory, the change in direction sought by Labour’s leader could pave the way for a return to a council-managed labour workforce of a size not seen since the 1990s.
Whether the local leadership in Camden is as enthused by the idea, however, was a moot point as the party’s manifesto was launched on Tuesday. Its reference was so discreet in the final list of pledges that one member at the event asked for the leadership to point out where it was in the document. Left-wingers on the campaign team believe some of their ideas have been watered down or not included at all.
One notable policy absent from the manifesto was a pledge to set up a local energy company to tackle the “big six” domination of the market, as the party’s counterparts in neighbouring Islington have done.
On “insourcing”’, members enthused by Mr Corbyn want stronger commitments rather than simply an “open-mind” approach. Mr Corbyn said on Monday: “The experience of those who have taken refuse collections, care services and many others back in-house is you get a better service and a loyal workforce. It’s cheaper because you are not paying for the profits of somebody else. Instead, the benefits go back to the community as a whole.”
He added: “The principle is that we think public service actually works better. It’s more accountable and more democratic.”
Bets are not now being taken on Labour being returned to power in Camden next month, but the party is looking to expand its grip on London’s politics by winning control of Tory-held councils in Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet.
Sceptics believe Labour’s idea of stripping back the use of private companies is unrealistic, particularly in fields where large infrastructure is needed, such as the depots and vans required for waste services. The legal cost of trying to winch local authorities out of a long-term deal could also be prohibitive, they say.
There was, however, a subtle change in mood in Camden following the Chalcots estate evacuation crisis last summer, as it became clear untangling what had gone wrong meant working through a maze of contractors and sub-contractors.
Cllr Gould was urged from the floor on Tuesday to be as bold as possible about going in-house and she said in-sourcing would be a “first option” as contracts came up. But she also added: “Obviously, we can’t bring everything in-house.”