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Conference roundup

My hotel manager was very pleased indeed that Labour brought the sunshine to Brighton but I think we did much more than that. Thanks to a wonderful speech from Ed Miliband we not only have policies to offer to the electorate but a message of hope as well. It’s not surprising that the media have concentrated on Ed’s pledge to freeze energy prices or that we have seen a backlash from the industry but what is really important is that now people know more about our leader and can see quite clearly that he is on their side, taking up their concerns and fighting for a more just society. He really does get the issue of falling living standards and the struggle many, many families have up and down the country, including in my Durham constituency, just to make ends meet.

But I am also delighted with his announcements about how Labour would deliver new housing including a commitment to new towns, urban extensions and garden cities. Labour understands the need to build and shape places as communities and I am looking forward to doing a lot more work on this.

My week as you would expect was dominated by meetings and fringes on housing and planning issues with for example TCPA, RTPI, RIBA, LGA, Core Cities, FMB, The Smith Institute and many others including a very interesting Demos session chaired by Esther Rantzen on the housing issues facing older people. 

But I didn’t ignore Higher Education or skills matters either and I thought some of the debates about how to get more of our young people not ony skilled but into jobs through greater use of apprenticeships (including higher level apprenticeships) was worthy of more attention by the media and others. These discussions also touched on many of the procurement issues that I have been raising for some time.

I left conference today with a new spring in my step despite the inevitable tiredness caused by too many early starts and late nights (!!!) and I know that like me many delegates left with a new resolve and determination to get rid of this incompetent, heartless government and coalition members in local government too.

Thanks Ed, now lets keep up the momentum.

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Ed M speaking at the Labour Party Conference

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Labour Party Conference

It’s been busy conference so not much time to blog

The women’s conference on Saturday was amazing. So many young women who want to be councillors or MPs. Other parties don’t come close to Labour’s vision for continuing to widen opportunities for women or put policy to support families at the heart of our policy agenda.

But Sunday onwards has been more focused on local government and planning matters. The Dragons den event was great. Councillors were pitching ideas for how to improve Council services -: we covered everything from High Streets, to apprenticeships, to community cohesion. I suspect we lacked the hard heartedness of the real dragons but most of the ideas are worthy of support. I hope Labour repeat this event at future conferences.

The Coalition see planning as a brake on development but they are wrong. We must see planning as a way to deliver growth. We need more effective community engagement and a bigger emphasis on the role planners can play in facilitating development.

I am about to speak at a Peabody event on the role Local Authorities can play in local employment. Procurement is a turn off for most people and ALL journalists but councils need to follow Birmingham’s example and use local government buying power to support SMEs encourage apprenticeships and improve employment standards and pay a living wage.

That’s it for now there’s a real buzz partly because the media are in a frenzy to get people to criticise Ed Miliband. Thankfully for us and the future they are not having much success.

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