Labour promises town halls freedom

Labour leader Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband
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ED Miliband promised councils a “new deal” yesterday including more independence from Whitehall and long term funding settlements.

The promise comes on top of pledges to devolve £30 billion from Government departments to local areas and to allow regions to retain control over the business rates they raise made in a recent speech in Leeds.

But he was careful not to commit to bigger financial settlements for councils.

The Labour leader said: “Instead of Whitehall setting local authorities annual budgets, the government I plan to lead next year will provide long term funding settlements so councils can plan ahead, improve their services and reinvest the savings.”

Mr Miliband said a Labour Government would put the control of health and social care into local hands to help create joined up support that keeps the elderly out of hospital.

Councils would also be forced to create public accounts committees. mirroring the body of MPs who oversee public spending at Westminster.

The Labour leader added: “I know there is a certain cynicism about promises to hand power from Whitehall to local people. They are often made in opposition and then broken in government.

“But the difference is that I am setting out a plan designed to meet the challenge for progressive parties in our age.

“The next government can make big reforms without big spending. By reversing the centralisation of power we will empower those who are best able to use the resources we have and have shown they can deliver. It is an essential step on the road to social justice and a more equal society.”