In a speech to Progress last night Tessa Jowell launched an exciting new Commission on Ownership which will look at extending the mutual model of ownership into public service provision much further than just Co-op schools and Foundation Hospitals. In her speech she said that there was a “fundamental difference” in Labour’s approach to public services compared with the Tories. She said: “Instead of learning lessons from the Co-operative and John Lewis, Tory local authorities - which David Cameron offers as a model for how the Tories would govern - have decided that their model of public service delivery is the budget airline.”
She continued: "in the hands of the Tories, the principle this appears to encapsulate - that ability to pay should determine the level and quality of the service - is not how most of us think care of the elderly or children's services should be delivered. It is also far removed from the principles of mutualism - of collective action as a means to fulfil individual aspiration, of equity, democracy and accountability."
Today we can see that fundamental difference between the two parties in action, as news filters through that a plucky group of UK Pensioners has managed to derail Barnet Council’s plans - the ‘easycouncil’ cheerleader - to remove wardens from sheltered housing in Barnet. The High Court judge who upheld the Judicial Review of the Tory council’s actions said that councillors had “not adhered to their obligations under the disability discrimination act”.
Sir Jeremy Beecham, Leader of the LGA Labour Group, said in response to the welcome news: “Today’s judicial review ruling against Barnet Council is a welcome defeat of the reckless Conservative approach to slashing public services which people depend on.
"Barnet Council has adopted a cost-cutting programme dubbed the ‘easyCouncil’ approach after the budget airline, which provides basic core services while higher levels of provision cost residents more.
"Residents of Barnet are being subjected to the trail of a ruthless approach which reduces local services to a minimum and adds extras only at a cost. This hits vulnerable groups the hardest, who have to pay more to receive much needed support. Not only is this approach economically and socially unsound, but today it has also been found to breach the law.
“This decision should send a clear message to Cameron if he’s listening – people will simply not accept local government renouncing responsibility for vital services, and he should think hard before adopting such an approach nationally. Labour’s plans for John-Lewis-style partnerships locally, on the other hand, should give people a real stake in their communities and a clear role in taking decisions on local services and priorities”.
Looks like Labour is finally developing its dividing lines on public service reform…