February 25, 2014 12:08 am

Labour vows to ‘declutter’ provision of public services

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Labour will attempt to reinforce its claim to be tough on public spending on Tuesday with a promise to undertake significant reforms in the delivery of a range of services from health to policing.

Chris Leslie, shadow Treasury chief secretary, will say Labour will “declutter” the provision of services by streamlining bureaucracy and encouraging the merger of local bodies to save money.

But the party’s public sector reforms, including Ed Miliband’s promise to give citizens more say over local provision, have been criticised by some former Blairites as being too timid.

In a speech at the Social Market Foundation, Mr Leslie will say that the centre-left must embrace the goal of balancing the books because “the foundation of successful public service provision is the sound stewardship of public finances”.

His speech follows the pledge made last month by Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, that the next Labour government would get the current budget into surplus by the end of the next parliament.

Mr Leslie will say Labour will create leaner, more efficient commissioning arrangements for health and social care and encourage the co-location of county courts and magistrates courts to save money.

There will be greater collaboration between local emergency services, for example repeating the example in County Durham where police and fire services have shared buildings.

Local police forces could be streamlined through “locally-negotiated mergers” and elected police and crime commissioners - established under David Cameron’s government - could be axed.

There would also be greater collaboration between local councils to pool staff and resources, as well as other shared staff and services including street cleaning, recycling and ground maintenance.

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