It seems unusual to send a dispatch from a party conference that hasn’t actually formally finished but, for Labour, we can already see what the takeaway headlines are.
For those that have not been blessed with attending a party political conference before, it’s a bit like wading through a bubble; whilst the rest of England has been grappling with petrol shortages and the associated knock-on effect, the UK’s main opposition party, aided and abetted by half of Fleet Street, have spent a week essentially talking to themselves.
The good news is we get to repeat the exercise next week at Conservative Party conference, which should be punchier in terms of policy and politics now we have Michael Gove at the helm.
So what have we learnt this week about Labour policies towards development and regeneration?
The truth is not a lot of ‘new’ policies, but a number of themes continue to emerge. In fact, many of the Shadow Government’s announcements have been made prior and we should expect finer and further details much later on in the election cycle. For developers, it is worth noting now that perhaps the biggest single policy to be aware of is the desire to reconfigure land sales. Under a Labour administration, Councils would no longer buy land at ‘hope’ value (land value once planning has been obtained), instead the council would pay a flat fee for the land’s current use value. Land ownership and land sales would change overnight. A literal landgrab some critics have quipped.
Other policy themes included:
- GLA emphasis on getting councils back in the business of development
- Sadiq Khan’s commitment to MMC to help deliver the £4bn affordable homes programme
- The quality homes agenda is still front and centre for local communities
- More devolved powers for our elected mayors
- Continued opposition to the Government’s attempts to reform the planning system
We already knew Labour’s view is that levelling up is naked electioneering, as accusations of introducing a funding see-saw surround the infamous slogan that will no doubt define the next General Election. This helps explain why at fringe meeting after fringe meeting, the London Mayor was at pains to argue that levelling up for him meant we could not and should not forget London is the undisputed engine room of the UK’s economy.
The party conference bandwagon next rolls on to Manchester, where we hope to get more colour on Michael Gove’s vision for housing and development.
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