The last week of the election campaign has seen a flurry of activity as most of the national political parties campaigning in England and Wales have launched their manifestos:
The Conservative Party launched their Forward, Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future manifesto on Thursday 18 May highlighting the importance of strength and stability during the next five years. While the manifesto has a significant Brexit focus there are no major changes proposed to the publicised stance the Government has taken so far.
Housing and Planning
The Conservatives plan to build enough homes to meet demand in order to slow the rise in house prices and rents. The 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 is reiterated, as well as delivering half a million more between 2020 and 2022. They propose to do this by following through with the reforms proposed in the Housing White Paper in February.
The manifesto states that more homes will not mean poor quality homes or developments which lack infrastructure, parks and quality of space and design and pledges to support high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets and “encourage the very best practice in the design of buildings and public spaces”. The Conservatives also commit to:
Building 160,000 houses on Government land.
Supporting specialist housing, like multigenerational homes and housing for older people, including by helping housing associations increase their specialist housing stock.
Working with private and public sector house builders to capture the increase in land value created when they build to reinvest in local infrastructure, essential services and further housing, making it both easier and more certain that public sector landowners, and communities themselves, benefit from the increase in land value from urban regeneration and development.
Reviewing energy efficiency requirements on new homes and committing to upgrading all fuel poor homes to EPC Band C by 2030.
The Conservatives also note that the new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund has been targeted at areas that are critical for productivity including housing, infrastructure and skill and that it will take total spending on housing, economic infrastructure and R&D to £170 billion during the next parliament.
The manifesto outlines plans to:
Maintain the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
‘Build better houses, to match the quality of those we have inherited from previous generations. That means supporting high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets’
Not just concentrate development in the South East but to rebalance housing growth across the country, in line with the modern industrial strategy.
Place new duties on councils to consult when they wish to cut down street trees.
Produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how to improve our environment after Brexit.
The manifesto commits the Conservatives to a ‘crack down on unfair practices in leasehold, such as escalating ground rents’ as part of a chapter on ‘Cutting the Cost of Living’.
Social housing and local government
The Conservatives pledge to help councils to build more social housing, but only those councils who will build high-quality, sustainable and integrated communities by entering into new Council Housing Deals with “ambitious, pro-development” local authorities and working with them to improve their capability and capacity to develop more good homes. The manifesto is stark in its language with regards to previous experience of council home building, stating that ‘councils have been amongst the worst offenders in failing to build sustainable, integrated communities. In some instances, they have built for political gain rather than for social purpose. So we will help councils to build, but only those councils who will build high-quality, sustainable and integrated communities.’
The Party also proposes to provide councils with significant low-cost capital funding to build new fixed-term social houses, which will be sold privately after ten to fifteen years with an automatic Right to Buy for tenants, the proceeds of which will be recycled into further homes. The Conservatives will also reform Compulsory Purchase Orders to make them easier and less expensive for councils to use and to make it easier to determine the true market value of sites.
In terms of devolution, the Conservatives pledge to continue to give local government greater control over the money they raise and address concerns about the fairness of current funding distributions and support those authorities that wish to combine to serve their communities better. They note that they will not support elected mayors for combined rural counties.
The manifesto re-confirms previous statements on the introduction of a Great Repeal Bill as the centrepiece of a post-Brexit statutory framework. This would convert EU law into UK law while giving UK parliaments and devolved national institutions the power to vary and ‘correct laws’ that do not operate appropriately in and for the UK.
Addressing concerns about uncertainty on tariffs, the Party states that it would seek ‘immediate stability by lodging new UK schedules with the World Trade Organization’ which are in alignment with current EU schedules. Conservatives would introduce a Trade Bill during the next parliament and aim to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements and support the ratification of agreements entered into during the UK’s membership of the EU.
Structural fund resources that are returned to the UK following Brexit would be used to create a United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund specifically designed to reduce inequalities across UK nations.
Skills and Labour
The Conservatives pledge to provide the technical education Britain has lacked for decades including addressing the immediate needs of those sectors suffering shortages in skills. This includes making the immigration system work for these sectors by asking the independent Migration Advisory Committee to make recommendations to improve the visa system and align it with the industrial strategy. The Conservatives envisage that the Committee’s advice will allow the Government to set aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology, without adding to net migration as a whole.
In order to also develop the skills needed in the future, the Conservatives will double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament, using the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK. The Conservatives also pledge to help veterans to start new careers by ensuring that the skills and qualifications they gained in service are recognised by civilian employers and by introducing a one year holiday on Employer National Insurance Contributions for firms hiring service personnel after they leave service.
The full Conservative Party manifesto is available here.
Labour’s manifesto For the Many, Not the Few was officially launched on Tuesday 16 May after a leaked draft became available on 11 May. The finalised version saw only a number of small changes to the leaked draft. Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn launched the manifesto at Bradford University calling it “a blueprint of what Britain could be and a pledge of the difference a Labour government can make”.
Housing and Planning
The manifesto raises housing as an important issue from the outset with the foreword noting that the cost of housing is holding young people back while “whole families are being held back from the life they have worked towards”. This sentiment is in line with the theme of the chapter on housing (“secure housing for all”) within which the Party reiterates its claim that housebuilding has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s and highlights almost 200,000 fewer homeowners, and new affordable housebuilding being at a 24-year low.
Labour pledge to invest to build over one million new homes through a new National Transformation Fund as part of a joined-up industrial and skills strategy that ensures a vibrant construction sector with a skilled workforce and rights at work. Proposals for particular initiatives include:
Maintaining funding for Help to Buy until 2027 to give long-term certainty to both first-time buyers and the housebuilding industry – the Manifesto provides no further detail on this or whether it would reshape the scheme, for example, on eligibility grounds
Giving local people ‘first dibs’ on new built homes to give them confidence that new homes will be available to them and their families
Consulting on new rules on minimum space standards to prevent ‘rabbit hutch’ properties and on new modern standards for building zero carbon homes
To ‘Not just build more homes but also build better’ by insulating more homes to manage energy bills, reducing preventable winter deaths and meeting climate change targets.
Keeping the Land Registry in public ownership and make landownership more transparent.
Establishing a new Department for Housing and overhaul the HCA to be the delivery body exactly how this model would differ from the HCA’s existing remit is not established in the manifesto
Labour has pledged to ensure local plans address the need for older people’s housing, ensuring that choice and downsizing options are available as well as to protect the green belt and ‘prioritise brownfield sites’ and start work on a new generation of new towns.
Labour pledge to give leaseholders ‘security from rip off ground rents and end the routine use of leasehold houses on new developments
Labour’s Social housing pledge, which has received significant media attention, is the commitment to build at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year by the end of the next Parliament “for genuinely affordable rent or sale”.
Skills and Labour
Labour is proposing to introduce free, lifelong education in Further Education (FE) colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life. Labour would also abandon Conservative plans to build new technical colleges and instead redirect the money to increase teacher numbers in the sector.
In terms of apprentices, Labour pledge to maintain the apprenticeship levy while taking measures to ensure high qualitative employers have more flexibility in how the levy is deployed, including allowing the levy to be used for pre-apprenticeship programmes. Labour also commits to:
Protecting the £440 million funding for apprenticeships for small-and medium-sized employers who don’t pay the levy.
Setting targets to increase apprenticeships for certain groups including care leavers and veterans.
Consulting on introducing incentives for large employers to over-train numbers of apprentices to fill skills gaps in the supply chain and the wider sector.
Labour is also planning to invest in enforcement through a new Ministry of Labour with the resources to enforce all workers’ rights, and empower workers and their trade unions. At the heart of this proposal is the introduction of a 20-point plan for security and equality at work including:
Giving all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent
Banning zero hours contracts
Legislate to ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home
Repealing the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining
Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces
Proposing four new public holidays
Raising the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020)
Labour would also scrap the changes brought in by the Conservatives in 2014 to TUPE, which altered protections for workers transferring between contractors.
Labour proposes to drop the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure there is no detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit. Further, throughout the Brexit process, Labour pledge to make sure that all EU-derived laws that are of benefit including workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections – are fully protected without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses. It would do so by working with trade unions, businesses and stakeholders to ensure there is consensus.
Labour will also seek a Brexit deal that delivers for all regions and nations of the UK and will introduce a ‘presumption of devolution’ where devolved powers transferred from the EU will go straight to the relevant region or nation.
While Labour acknowledges that freedom of movement will end after Brexit it plans to develop and implement ‘fair’ immigration rules and replace migration income thresholds with a prohibition on recourse to public funds. The Party does not provide any additional information about the nature of these new rules but does note that the new rules will be equally informed by negotiations with the EU and other partners.
The full Labour Party manifesto is available here.
The Liberal Democrats election manifesto, Change Britain’s Future, was released on Wednesday 17 May and establishes that the Liberal Democrats are aiming to become the official opposition and prevent a Conservative landslide at the polls.
Housing and Planning
The Liberal Democrats plan to address the “emergency” now posed by the housing crisis with an aim to reach a housebuilding target of 300,000 homes a year by 2022, including half a million affordable and energy-efficient homes, with direct government commissioning to build homes for sale and rent where the market “fails to deliver”.
The Liberal Democrats would scrap affordable housing exemptions for small residential sites, and strengthen the hand of local government to prevent large developers reneging on their commitments. The party also intend to ‘penalise excessive land-banking’ and ensure new homes are marketed in the UK before they go on sale abroad.
Another priority is the setting up of a new government-backed British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank with a remit to provide long-term capital for major new settlements and help attract finance for significant housebuilding projects, as well as to mobilise investment in low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure. It appears that in order to do this the Liberal Democrats are proposing to set up a £100bn package of additional infrastructure investment and £5bn of initial capital for the Bank.
The Liberal Democrats will also pass five green laws including a Green Buildings Act which will set new energy-efficiency targets, including a long-term ambition for every home to reach at least an energy rating of Band C by 2035 to incorporate existing EU environmental protections, maintain product standards such as for energy efficiency, and establish a framework for continual improvement. They also pledge to restore the zero-carbon standard for new homes. They also pledge to ensure that four million properties receive insulation retrofits by 2022 to make them made highly energy efficient (Band C).
On planning the Liberal Democrats pledge to:
Significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including the creation of a new designation of national nature parks to protect up to one million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities.
Work with local authorities to deliver a significant increase in social and affordable housing in rural areas.
Create at least 10 new garden cities in England.
Require local plans to take into account at least 15 years of future housing need – focusing on long-term development and community needs.
Create a community right of appeal in cases where planning decisions go against the approved local plan.
Enable local authorities to levy up to 200% council tax on second homes and ‘buy to leave empty’ investments from overseas.
Enforce housebuilding on unwanted public sector land.
The Liberal Democrats plan to enable local authorities to end Right to Buy pilots if they choose, lift the borrowing cap on local authorities and increase the borrowing capacity of Housing Associations so that they can build council and social housing.
Along with other Brexit related proposals to avoid a hard Brexit, the manifesto also pledges to maintain, or avoid the undermining of, various social and environmental protections currently in place due to EU law and protect support for domestic industries such as farming, tourism and the creative industries, as well as regional support for deprived areas and for London in terms of its “full rights in EU financial markets”.
Skills and Labour
The Liberal Democrats want it to become the norm for businesses to train apprentices in every sector, and for higher-level apprenticeships to be understood as a respected alternative to university education. The Party also propose to develop national centres of excellence for key sectors, to deliver the high-level vocational skills that businesses need and identify and seek to solve skills gaps by expanding higher vocational training. The manifesto also pledges to ensure that all the receipts from the Apprenticeship Levy in England are spent on training, aiming to fund a wider range of types of training.
The Liberal Democrats pledge to hold an annual debate in parliament on skills and labour market shortfalls and surpluses to identify the migration necessary to meet the UK’s needs and continue to allow high-skilled immigration to support key sectors of the economy, and ensure visas are processed quickly and efficiently.
The Liberal Democrats are also pledging to reverse a number of the Conservatives’ “unfair and unjustified” tax cuts, including:
The cutting of Corporation Tax from 20% to 17%.
Capital Gains Tax cuts.
Capital Gains Tax extended relief.
The Marriage Allowance.
The raising of the Inheritance Tax threshold.
They also propose to consider the implementation of Land Value Taxation.
Lastly, the Liberal Democrats propose to establish a government process to deliver greater devolution of financial responsibility to English local authorities and any new devolved bodies in
England. This includes devolving further revenue-raising powers and decision-making power over key levers of economic development including transport, housing and skills and ensuring that any powers devolved are matched with the relevant funding.
The full Liberal Democrats Party manifesto is available here.
Plaid Cymru launched the Defending Wales - 2017 Action Plan on Tuesday 16 May.
The manifesto does not outline any policies specific to housing but does include a pledge to secure compensation for those who have “suffered from badly installed, government-backed cavity wall insulation” as a way of making housing stock more energy efficient. The manifesto also proposes the introduction of a £7.5 billion investment programme to fund vital infrastructure projects throughout Wales and pledges that Plaid Cymru will press for a “fair share” of UK infrastructure spend and commits to making ultra-fast broadband available to all of Wales and rolling out 5G mobile signal nationwide.
Skills and Labour
Plaid Cymru pledge to:
guaranteeing employment, education or training for any person under-25 looking for work although it does not provide details on how it will look to achieve this goal
creating a new network of specialist National Colleges of Vocational Education, for 14+ and post-compulsory education
creating a Welsh Migration Advisory Service so the local migration system “suits Wales's needs” including Welsh-specific visas to plug skills gaps.
The full Plaid Cymru Party manifesto is available here.
Victoria Brauer, Policy Analyst
Home Builders Federation
London, SE1 9PL
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