At Labour party conference this week in Manchester and a strange atmosphere hangs over it. After 13 years of being the party of government there is obviously some disappointment and it’s strange to see former Ministers walking around on their own without the usual entourage of suits with clipboards surrounding them. However, with the election of a new leader there is also a mood of optimism amongst many delegates that the page has been turned on new labour and things have moved on.
On the fringe the main topics are the impact of the recession on local economies, climate change and a weird fixation with all things co-operative and mutual. The economic issues dominate all others and efficiencies retain a key focus. For me the innovative ideas around carbon reduction hold great promise for local government as it is the one area where we can be expansive around employment and activity due to the self financing opportunities created by the feed in tariffs. I quiz former CLG Minister John Denham and Leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese about this on a fringe and get strong support for my suggestion that the public sector is key to making this agenda happen and that we should be going after these opportunities much more aggressively.
The one I remain to be convinced about is that cooperatives and mutual’s are the answer to delivering services more efficiently and effectively. I like to see evidence to support ideas and despite claims that cooperatives will solve everything from poverty to disease, famine and plague the evidence doesn’t seem to be overwhelming.