Local Leaders Spotlight: Progressive alliance coalition on Milton Keynes council ‘puts people before politics’

The Labour-Lib Dem coalition on Milton Keynes City Council ‘puts people before politics,’ the leader of the council has said.

Labour’s Peter Marland, who has been leader of the council since 2014, made the comments in conversation with us on our Local Leaders Spotlight series.

Compass aims to facilitate greater collaboration between Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens in key areas to help progressive candidates win power.

Cllr Marland’s comments came ahead of an important set of local elections this May, which will see Milton Keynes residents go to the polls to elect one third of council members.

Milton Keynes City Council has been under no overall control for the vast majority of its existence, and Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems have each spent time as the largest party.

So when Labour took charge of the council nearly 10 years ago, Cllr Marland said the council was viewed as “a bit of a political basket case” by national government and by the local government community.

From May 2014 to May 2021, the Labour Party held office as a minority administration on Milton Keynes City Council, working with the Liberal Democrats on an informal basis.

But in May 2021, following a difficult set of local elections, both parties joined together to create a formal progressive alliance.

Cllr Marland said both parties ‘share the very core objectives for our city,’ with key priorities including tackling the cost of living crisis and taking action on equality, diversity and inclusion.

He said: “We say we put people before politics and so that’s why we run the council together.

“Too many councils and too many administrations really burn the house down after every single administration. And really what you should be able to do is come in and paint the walls your own colour, decorate as you like, but you know, the house still stands.”

He said local elections ‘matter more for the everyday lives of our citizens’ than national elections because they can have more power to affect things than ‘monolithic’ Westminster politics.

He said: “Ironically, what tends to happen is people vote for their MPs in great numbers, but an MP on a local basis has far less power, far less ability to do things than I do.

“If we want to do something at a local level, I can put it on the forward plan and we can make a decision about it in 30 days.

“When it comes to local elections, they matter more for the everyday lives of our citizens than a lot of national elections do.”

He also discussed tactical voting at the upcoming general election, expected this autumn.

He said: “Where you can have a Labour MP, vote Labour, but in those other places, I think what you’ve seen on Milton Keynes council can be replicated…if you’re in a seat where Labour can’t win, I think I can understand why people would be tempted not to vote Labour this time.

“There’s a huge opportunity to basically make sure that the Conservatives are put at a low ebb and stay at a low ebb.”

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