Cllr Nick Forbes Labour Party Conference Speech

Thank you conference.

I'm honoured to be here, having been elected in February to succeed Jim McMahon as the Leader of Labour Local Government.

I congratulate you, Jeremy on your re-election as Leader of the Party. I look forward to working with you to get you into Downing Street.

In my role I am privileged to work with great people like Ann Lucas and Alice Perry who represent councillors on the NEC, my deputies on the LGA Steve Bullock and Sharon Taylor and all the officers and executive members of the LGA Labour Group and Association of Labour Councillors.

Above all else I am privileged to work with every one of our 7000 Labour councillors. It is Labour councillors that are out there giving a voice to our local communities, putting Labour values in practice. Labour councillors are the campaigners, the door knockers, the fundraisers, the builders, the protectors, the visionaries, the backbone of our party and our movement. 

The foundation of Labour in local government is solidarity. We rise together. We celebrate our successes together. And in difficult times, we support each other.

And there is no doubt we are in difficult times. The road back to Government is a long and hard one.

Labour councils are the frontline in the battle against mindless Tory austerity.

Labour councils have faced cuts up to 10 times deeper than those in Tory areas.

And Labour councils have stretched every sinew to shield the most vulnerable in our communities from these cuts.

Nationally, we campaigned against the Bedroom Tax. And Labour councils have stepped in with financial advice and support through our council tax relief schemes to ease the burden.

Nationally we exposed the unfairness of the Tory cuts agenda. And Labour councils have worked with community groups, the voluntary sector and trade unions to find innovative ways of keeping vital public services going.

And there is another attack on the horizon. This Government is introducing a new right to buy policy, this time for housing association tenants. It is to be paid for by a new levy on council housing – the Tory Council House Tax. It's the opposite of Buy One Get One Free for social housing – lose one and lose another one to pay for it. At a time when our need for affordable homes has never been greater, the future of social housing has never been so much under threat.

They attack our council houses, conference, because they do not care about the people in them.

It is a shameless attack on the basic worth of an individual.

The Tories simply do not see the value in someone that needs a helping hand.  Where we see lost opportunity and ability, and are determined to put this right, they see nothing but cost and a drain on resources.

There's no greater example of this than the failure of this Government to sort out the abomination  - the disgrace - that is the Calais Jungle. Shut it down now, Mrs May. We stand ready to take these abandoned children. To provide them with homes, welcome them into our communities and give them the opportunity of a better life in Britain. 

To stand by, and continue to ignore their suffering, is a moral outrage.

Conference, Labour councillors stand on the frontline of these battles everyday.

In Local Government we have:

  • Introduced a Living Wage;
  • Created jobs and apprenticeships;
  • Brought together our universities, colleges and companies to boost innovation;
  • Supported new start-ups and given a hand to sole traders;
  • Improved transport links and extended broadband;
  • Attracted global investment into our towns and cities.

And I'm particularly proud to have developed an agreement between Labour Local Government and the Trade Unions, for the first time ever setting out clearly how we will work with each other in the years ahead.

So this is the road to Labour victories; campaigning for a better tomorrow while doing what we can to improve today. Shielding the vulnerable now, but investing too for a better future. Giving a voice to our communities and offering opportunity for everyone to succeed. Solidarity with each other and support for all who need it.

The world the Tories want is a dark one for those who don't stand tall at the top. Our mission is to show, in the darkest of times, that Labour Local Government is a beacon of hope that things can, will, and DO change for the better under Labour. 

16 February 2017