CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Ed Miliband backs Labour plan to bring council services back in-house

Former party leader joins election campaign as council leader predicts Labour victory in Belsize

26 April, 2018 — By Richard Osley

ED Miliband, the former Labour Party leader, backed plans to embark on a widespread move to bring council services in-house as he joined the election campaign in Belsize Park.

The New Journal report­ed earlier this month how his successor, Jeremy Corbyn, wants councils to start running services in-house after the local election, removing profit-making private companies from the equation. Mr Corbyn and his supporters believe the change of direction, a striking ambition to strip away at more than two decades of privatisation across local government, would make the Town Hall more accountable and improve workers’ rights.

A commitment to “insourcing” options is included in the local Labour party manifesto, although some left-wingers feel the pledge could be made more forcefully. There are differences of opinion over how realistic redesigning a new council-managed labour force is, but those most in favour want contracts to be placed under immediate review. Some sceptics believe the in-house method will be presented as too expensive as contracts come up for renewal.

But Mr Miliband told the New Journal yesterday (Wednesday): “I think there is a recognition that quite often outsourcing produced worse services and worse conditions for workers. Being able to take services in-house can be good for residents, and good for workers. I think in a way you respond to the times you are in, and the times we are in demand recognising where we can learn from the past.”

Supporters of in-house services detected a mood change in the Labour leadership in Camden in the wake of the evacuation at Chalcots – an estate refurbished using a private finance initiative (PFI).

Ed Miliband, Georgia Gould and Sucharita Sethi

Mr Miliband, who lives in Dartmouth Park, said PFI deals under past Labour governments had enabled the building of schools and hospitals, but said “of course mistakes were made” with some projects. “My kids were born in the UCLH hospital, that was rebuilt using a PFI. It’s a good thing it was rebuilt, but it certainly isn’t perfect,” he added.

Council leader Georgia Gould has said during the campaign that moving in- house would be considered as the “first option”, although she has warned that it would be costly to have a blanket review of all private contracts. The location of Haverstock Hill for Mr Miliband’s campaign visit was chosen by Labour to encourage canvassing teams to push on in Belsize ward, where the party is looking to break through Tory lines.

Liberal Democrats are also running hard there, with former councillor Tom Simon, who scored a high personal vote when coming close to a seat four years ago, among candidates. Labour candidate Sucharita Sethi was nevertheless introduced as a “soon-to-be councillor”.

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