Labour conference: everything you need to know from a trip to the seaside

Brighton Beach Crop

In between queuing for fuel, you may have noticed that Labour’s traditional autumn trip to the seaside took place this week.

With many political commentators focusing on supposed factional splits between the Leadership and rank-and-file members, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was just Labour’s latest public display of masochism.

But scratch beneath the surface and there is plenty for built environment professionals to take notice of, particularly following Sir Keir Starmer’s first in-person Leader’s speech, where he offered up a “serious plan for Government”.

These are BECG’s top takeaways as we head back north:

1. Labour sees an opportunity on housing

Shadow Housing Minister, Lucy Powell MP, made one of the most impactful speeches from the conference floor on Monday. Proclaiming a ‘New Settlement’ on housing, Powell wants Labour to be “the Party of homeowners and tenants”. Many of the measures announced take inspiration from Labour councils and Metro Mayors across the North. With the cost of housing climbing ever higher, it is clear that Labour sees an opportunity to make a retail offer to voters in an area traditionally seen as a weak spot for the party.

2. Expect more devolution

In a similar vein, this week has seen Labour looking to outflank the Conservatives on another area that the Tories have traditionally been strong on – devolution. The Shadow Communities Secretary set out his ambition to devolve power to areas people recognize as “a natural community” or “a genuine economic footprint”, with the model of governance up for debate on a case by basis. Detail is scant on the type of powers or funding that would follow under a future Labour Government but what is certain is that the devolution genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

3. You haven’t heard the last of planning reform

Despite the ‘pause’ to planning reform that Michael Gove recently announced, the expectation among senior Labour figures is that revised reforms to the planning system are still in the pipeline. Labour will continue to oppose any reforms that remove the right of local people to object to planning applications and will look to legislate for a ‘use it or lose it’ power to incentivise development within a two-year period of planning approval.

4. You need to take decarbonisation seriously

A major theme throughout the conference, from Sir Keir Starmer downwards, was the need for the UK to do more to decarbonise our economy and achieve net-zero by 2050. The promise of huge government investment (£28bn a year for a decade) combined with exhortations for the built environment to reduce its carbon footprint across the board, signposts the direction of travel a future Labour Government would take and its expectations of business across the sector.

5. A new leader in waiting?

Andy Burnham’s ambitions couldn’t have been plainer this week with announcements and stunts designed to appeal to the range of groups he needs to get the job he craves. Whether it was the radical call for a Universal Basic Income and the demand for good housing to be recognised as a human right (for the left), the call for the next devolution deal to be in Devon and Cornwall (for members outside his North West base), the criticism of the SNP for holding too much power in Holyrood (for the Scottish) or belting out ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’ on Karaoke in front of the cameras at the Daily Mirror Party, it’s clear that the Andy no longer sees being the Mayor of Greater Manchester as his “last job in politics”.

BECG works with public and private sector clients across the built environment. To find out more about how we can help you understand emerging policy at a local, regional or national level visit

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