University and Colleges Union
London Retired Members' Branch

Members' Publications

The State and Local Government

Peter Latham

The book is available from Amazon and the publishers Manifesto Press ( @14.95 plus postage and packing.

The three parliamentary parties, and the SNP and Plaid Cymru, all agree to destroy local democracy for the benefit of finance capital….The rhetoric is empowerment and devolution; the reality is more powers to the EU, the state and corporations. The EU originates half the rules and regulations about social services, procurement, performance and environmental standards in local government….A third of all local government services are already marketised and privatised. Local councillors are responsible for just five per cent of all public spending in their areas….

Latham proposes that we allow councils to introduce the enhanced committee system and restore the right of all councillors to make policy; abolish directly and indirectly-elected local government mayors; have smaller councils and more councillors; have all councillors receive the average backbench annual allowance; use the single transferable vote system for all elections; have democratically elected councils directly provide locally run services; end all marketisation, privatisation and profiteering in central and local government; abolish council tax, stamp duty land tax and national non-domestic rates; have councils make short-term deposits in publicly owned banks; and end the City of London Corporation….

Latham presents studies of local government in the USA, South Africa, China, Kerala, Venezuela and Porto Alegre in Brazil, and a brilliant study of Cuba's exemplary local democracy. Cuba holds competitive elections for municipal delegates, with candidates nominated by the people (not by the Communist Party). There are usually 4-7 candidates (never fewer than two). There is no campaigning for or against any candidate; negative campaigning is not allowed. There are no electoral promises or bribes or funding. There are no lobbyists to promote private interests over the general good. The delegates are unpaid, and their work is on top of their regular work, so Cuba has no caste of professional politicians. The delegates do not represent themselves, or parties; they have to act in the interests of the whole people. Delegates have to live in their electoral districts and have to account to their constituents at all times. Constituents formally instruct the delegates, and have the right of immediate recall. Delegates hold weekly meetings and six-monthly report-back meetings with their constituents, when the electorate holds them to account….

In a fine summary of the current crisis…Latham points out that there can be no `transition to a new phase of sustainable capitalist development'.
William Podmore, Amazon>

The great strength of this wide-ranging book…lies in its historical perspective and analytical force….But despite its depth it is no dry academic read. It clothes its Marxist standpoint with a refreshing spirit of resistance combined with an account of strategies to blunt the Conservative-Lib Dem offensive.
Morning Star

It also demonstrates how local democracy has been sidelined through increasing centralisation and privatisation.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary

…a work of real scholarship which should be read by socialists trying to grasp the scale of what has happened in Britain since the 1970s….Latham’s book must surely help to protect thoughtful socialists in future from falling again for right-wing Labour demagogues representing the interests of global private corporations and American neo-cons.
Kelvin Hopkins MP

Essentially an attack on current and recent neo-liberal policy as it has affected local councils, Peter Latham’s book illustrates the continuities between Thatcherism, New Labour and the current Conservative government….There is thorough critique of key approaches now shaping local government in Britain, such as the shift of decision making powers from all elected councillors to executives and elected mayors; marketisation and privatisation; and the wider ideological influence of ‘business values’. There is comparative material drawn from diverse locales…and….there are ‘strategies to defeat big business control’, and to get to a point where local democracy could really work to meet the needs of ordinary people.
Socialist History Society

It will not be every reader’s cup of tea; but by providing a way of looking at local government that is almost completely outside the mainstream, it can help even those who do not agree with its positions to see the issues in a new light. Much of its analysis could be the subject of further research. It is therefore a book that should be taken seriously.
Local Government Studies