John Denham – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by John Denham, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the 2009 Labour Party conference.

You can’t say you weren’t warned.

When David Cameron said Tory Councils show what a Tory Government would look like he meant it.

They are hard to get rid of’ the Tory Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham moans about his council tenants

Put up charges until people can’t afford to pay, says the Leader of Wandsworth.

Oppose ‘free swimming, free buses’, says the Leader of Southampton

Make people pay taxes – and then make them pay again just to get a decent service, says Barnet Council.

Privatise for dogma. Block new homes, block new jobs and block green power.

Look at Cameron’s Councils to see what a Cameron government would be like.

People like that would never have created SureStart, free swimming, pensioner bus passes, decent homes, apprenticeships, better schools.

These people are different to us. They have different values, different priorities, a different view of what makes the world tick.

Of course, every Labour Council leapt at the chance of free swimming for kids and pensioners. And of course over 60 Tory councils did not.

I’m proud of Labour’s record – your record – serving local people. You fought for decent public services under a Conservative Government; you’ve delivered them under a Labour Government.

More than this when times are tight, it’s Labour in Government – national and local – that makes every taxpayers pound work as hard as it can.

George Osborne says Tory councils save money.

They do.

Just not as much as Labour councils.

Last year all councils made value for money savings of a staggering £1.7bn. And Labour Councils saved twice as much as Tory Councils, putting the money back into frontline services and £100 off the Band D Council Tax.

Councils like Labour Hackney who haven’t increased Council Tax for the last four years but have improved the services they provide.

We couldn’t improve services and save money if local public servants weren’t prepared to work hard, to accept change and be realistic about pay. So thank you.

It’s not always easy.

And I know you do this because you care about the people you serve

And you deserve a fair deal.

The average pay of local government workers has gone up by £6,000 in seven years. The average pay of the chief execs has gone up by £40,000.

And nine chief execs get paid an average of £212,00 a year.

Don’t get me wrong. These are not bad people. Most have given their own lifetime of public service.

But we all know.

It’s just all got out of hand.

And it’s just got to stop.

I don’t want to see the pay or the pensions of local public servants dragged down by public anger at the excess of a few.

I’m not joining the clamour of Clegg and Cameron to slash your pensions. The average local government pension is less than £4,500 a year.

But, I do want to limit the pension entitlements of the very highest earners.

With every council publishing details of high paid posts, their pay, pensions, bonuses and allowances.

I will tackle the boomerang bosses who walk away with huge payouts, straight into their next job.

At the same time I’m giving the go ahead today for another £500m of equal pay awards.

And asking pension providers how we can keep more low paid members in the scheme.

And I can do all this while capping the burden of new costs falling on Council Taxpayers.

And do this because, if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be fair.

Common sense fairness is in the DNA of the British people.

And in hard times fairness matters more than ever.

Let’s acknowledge.

There are people,

People who have voted for us in the past.

Who are asking whether Britain’s fair today…

They’ve seen a lot a change.

Communities have changed.

The world of work has changed.

In the last year everything – life, work, homes, incomes – have changed.

And become more difficult.

For all we have done – to build up the health service, improve schools, raise incomes with tax credits, invest in building and construction – they want to know that we are still on their side.

And for a fair deal.

And if this party does not speak for them – in every street, in every community – then we have no purpose.

That’s why they wanted to hear Alistair’s promise on bankers bonuses.

Why I will make sure Yvette Cooper’s Future Jobs Fund makes a difference every  community.

Why I’ll work with Alan Johnson make sure the public can question how the police tackle anti-social behaviour.

It’s why John Healey is insisting that every single new public housing development employs apprenticeships.

And why I’m investing more money, from the levy on migration, to stop unscrupulous employers of foreign workers undercutting the minimum wage; or putting lives at risk at work.

If people know we are dealing with these issues, they’ll know we are speaking up for them.

And I want to make sure, in every community, in every corner of this country, people know we are on their side. No favours. No privileges. No special interest groups. Just fairness.

And together, we will reject the extremists, the separatists, the people – wherever they come from – who would pull this country apart; not build it up.

Conference, there will be challenges in the coming years.

Money will be tight. But people still have a right to decent services they rely on.

How do we do it? The answer is local leadership, strong leadership, Labour leadership.

I’ve proposed the biggest shift in power to local people and local communities in 30 years.

Labour believes people have the right to a personal service. The right to shape where you live. The right to elect a councillor who can come back to you on every public service in your area.

Councils being able to challenge how every pound is spent whether by the council the health service or the police.

Driving out any waste and duplication. Making every taxpayers pound work as hard as it can.

Not like Cameron’s Councils. Which won’t check standards because there will be no standards.

Where you live, not what you need, matters most. With their prejudice, their dogma, the unfairness, their opposition to jobs and homes and their rush to cut services and make people pay twice.

And I’ll tell you something.

This Labour government funds communities in every part of the country. Whatever the shade of the local council. Of course we do.

But I’m getting sick and tired of Cameron’s Councils who take Labour investment, claim the credit, for the new home, the new schools and the new play areas and have the cheeck to say it isn’t enough – and all the time they are working for a Tory Government that will take it all away.

It’s about time they were honest with the people about their real plans.

But that may be too much to ask so we’ll do it for them.

We’ll tell the truth about Cameron’s councils on every doorstep, in every street and in every community.

They’ve said one thing and done another for too long.