Miliband vows more council powers

A Labour government would begin to reverse a "century of centralisation" with legislation to return powers and billions of pounds of funding to local councils in England, Ed Miliband has said.

Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The Labour leader said he would chart a new course away from the "old top-down command model" towards what he called a new era of "people-powered public services".

Writing in The Guardian ahead of the publication today of the report of Labour's local government innovation taskforce, Mr Miliband said that at the same time he would insist on a new system of checks and balances to ensure council chiefs are properly held to account.

There would be a statutory requirement on local authorities to set up public accounts committees - along the lines of the Commons Public Accounts Committee chaired by Margaret Hodge - to scrutinise value for money for all services in their area.

In return, he said councils would receive long-term funding settlements while taking over powers for schools, further education, policing and the integration of health and social care programmes in their areas.

"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 wrote.

"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."

The report follows the party's growth review, published last week by the former transport secretary Lord Adonis, which set out plans to devolve £30 billion of spending to the English regions over the course of the next parliament.