A tale of two conferences


Housing Minister Kit Malthouse speaking at Conservative Party Conference

Who won the 2017 General Election?  If you didn’t already know the answer and merely stumbled your way past security and into either of the Party Conferences in Liverpool and Birmingham you could be forgiven for getting the answer wrong.

After a hectic two weeks in-and-around the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences here are my Top 5 takeaways for the built environment:

1. Labour has found its voice

Self-confidence and the belief that Team Corbyn have the right answers to the challenges the UK faces seemed to radiate beyond the conference hall. This is a party that feels it will win a snap election and is gearing up accordingly.  A huge contrast to the atmosphere in Birmingham.

2. Housing remains the big domestic priority

Dealing with the housing crisis was a recurrent theme across both Labour and Conservative conferences. The Prime Minister’s big announcement to lift the borrowing cap on local councils to fund new social house building will be welcomed by many in the housing sector.

3. But further planning reforms are on the cards

Both parties announced their intentions to make further planning reforms to tackle the housing crisis. The government will make it easier for properties to be extended upwards and give local authorities more flexibility to dispose of surplus land. Labour’s Planning Commission could result in a ‘complete rethink’ of the revised NPPF according to the Shadow Planning & Local Government Minister.

4. A minister on a mission

Kit Malthouse is a man on a mission with money to spend on infrastructure. There is a clear view on what needs to change and how the private sector can be supported to ‘rise to the challenge’.  Further funds are likely to be announced in the Budget.

5. Dithering on Devolution

There is a real divide between Labour and the Conservatives on the pace of devolution.  Whilst Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and others push for a ‘Brexit dividend’ of more powers for City Regions, senior Tories seem to have lost the appetite to devolve more powers away from Westminster.  Calls for a Council of the North or greater fiscal control are unlikely to be heeded under the May administration and City Region’s will be expected to deliver with the powers that they currently have.

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