Comparing the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour manifesto pledges on city devolution and housing.
This week was the big manifesto reveal for the majority of parties featuring in the 2015 Election campaign. Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Greens published their vision for the country and promises to voters.
We will publish a full briefing on what they all say about UK city economies next week, but for now here are some initial reflections on what the three main party manifestos propose on the topics of city devolution and housing – two issues at the heart of the debate about UK cities.
It was encouraging to see devolution and cities feature, and that by and large the manifestos set out plans for more place-based investment and devolution from Whitehall. However, the parties differ in their approaches.
In relation to fiscal devolution, the policies remain vague. Labour would allow city and county regions to retain additional business rates growth, the Lib Dems make a general commitment to a process of devolving more financial responsibility and the Conservatives confirm the commitment made to reviewing the business rates system. Overall, none of these policies or commitments is likely to amount to significant change in the fiscal tools cities would have at their disposal to support growth.
Housing has also risen up the agenda and is a more important issue in this election than in the previous few general elections.
The manifestos contain a lot of different policies on housing, from boosting home-ownership (a focus for the Conservatives) and improving conditions for renters (a focus for Labour and the Lib Dems). But while the volume of words is high, the detail of how these reforms would help resolve the housing crisis where it is most intense is thin. Only the Liberal Democrats specify that new homes should be focused on areas that need them most, and identify Cambridge, Oxford and Luton as areas where greater collaboration between authorities is needed to deliver the homes the area need. This focus on demand and recognition that the housing crisis is playing out very differently in different cities is welcome.
And on the politically sensitive issue of the green belt, the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos are silent while the Conservative manifesto pledges to protect it at all costs. Despite pledging to build hundreds of thousands of new homes, the parties do little to tackle the real issue of insufficient supply of land for housing which prevents enough homes being built in the cities where they are needed most.
The full briefing on what the party manifestos say for UK cities is available here.
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