Built Environment General Election Insight

Built Environment General Election Insight

What does it all mean? You switch on your television, read a newspaper, even surf your social media channels, and what do you see? Endless General Election announcements, gossip, polls and controversy and feuds.

Amidst the intrigue, spin and battles – we will be providing the bottom line. The meaning and the implications for you as a professional working in the Built Environment sector.

During a housing crisis and extensive climate change debate, expect our sector to be at the forefront of national debate as the Election looms.

Welcome to the BECG weekly General Election Built Environment Insight Bulletin, which will bring you all the key news you need to know about this election.

 

Quick Links

Manifesto for the North
Major parties unveil their investment priorities
Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution
Jenrick’s Infrastructure Announcements
Liberal Democrats unveil climate change policies
Fracking Suspended
From the campaign trail…
Latest Opinion Polling

Manifesto for the North

The Story: The Manifesto for the North has been created by the 11 LEPs within the Northern Powerhouse mega region, known as NP11, together with the Convention of the North. The manifesto follows a joint Convention of the North and NP11 event held in September.

As part of a five-point manifesto there are policies calling for:

  • An earmarked transport budget for the North, enabling full delivery of the Transport for the North plan and supporting the devolution of control and shared accountability for the region’s rail network.
  • Backing for the North to lead a green industrial revolution, decarbonising industry and harnessing and investing in its capability in renewable energy.
  • Retrofitting the existing housing stock and building new homes to the highest standards.

Agenda: The Northern Powerhouse has been a major initiative of the current government since the days of George Osborne when he was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and an MP in the region. These issues were all discussed at BECG’s Place North West Question Time event held last week in Manchester. See this short video for a summary of what was said.

Impact: The region is now seizing the opportunities provided to raise the profile of the case for infrastructure investment across the region in a way that it struggled to in the past.  Expect to hear more whichever party wins the election.

Major parties unveil their investment priorities

The Story: On Thursday morning Chancellor Sajid Javid and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell both unveiled their respective plans for funding long term investment in infrastructure and headed to the north-west of England to set out their stalls.

Speaking at Manchester Airport’s second terminal construction site (claimed to be “the biggest construction site in Europe”), Sajid Javid said the Conservatives would:

  • Almost double long-term infrastructure investment from the long-term average of 1.8% over recent decades to a new target of 3% of GDP. This came with the proviso that if the borrowing costs increase compared to the low costs related to today’s record low interest rates then this would have to be reviewed.

John McDonnell, speaking at Liverpool’s waterfront regeneration area, said that Labour would ease the constraints on borrowing to take public utility infrastructure assets – including water, energy and rail – into public ownership:

  • Labour would change the fiscal rules so that the full book value of all utility assets nationalised or built with government investment are included as part of the overall national balance sheet. In contrast, any borrowing for investment in such assets will be excluded from the borrowing targets.

Agenda: Both parties are going to be announcing increases in government spending, particularly for investment, but at vastly differential levels. The Conservatives are looking at tens of billions whereas Labour would be releasing the taps a great deal more, spending hundreds of billions over the course of the next parliament.

Impact: Increased levels of investment, particularly in housing and infrastructure is good news for our sector. However, it is questionable whether either party will be able to deliver on their pledges when the economic outlook is so unpredictable and with Brexit-related uncertainty likely to continue for some time.

Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution

The Story: Labour announced two significant pledges to combat emissions created by housing, including:

  • Tough new standards forcing housebuilders to make all new properties zero carbon within three years.
  • The ‘Warm Homes for All’ programme, which will see energy saving measures, such as loft insulation, double glazing, renewable and low carbon technologies installed in 27 million homes by 2030. Plans would cost £250bn; £60bn would come from central government, and the rest would be funded from energy bill savings.

Agenda: Climate change is a major topic as housing contributes 14% to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions from homes is also a priority for the Conservatives, who recently unveiled plans to cut 80% of emissions from new homes from 2025.

Impact: The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claim these new standards could mean homes becoming unaffordable and developers cutting back from building new homes. According to the IEA the Warm Homes programme would come with considerable cost, and it is unclear if the government, landlords and homeowners could afford this. If achieved, it would be good news for our climate and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the UK’s green energy sector.

Jenrick’s Infrastructure Announcements

The Story: The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick has announced five new infrastructure projects, worth more than £374million to unlock new homes. The money will go towards roads, schools, public transport and utilities. The recent announcement will see the money contributing five schemes in Swindon, Wiltshire, Cornwall, North Somerset and Medway, all places with marginal seats.

Agenda: With an ambitious housing target, the Conservative government will look to show it can deliver the number of homes needed, and this announcement will further help its credentials, with the housing crisis set to be a big topic at this Election.

Impact: This is positive news and the money provided is part of the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, which has already delivered over £3billion of funding.

 

Liberal Democrats unveil climate change policies

The Story: On Thursday the Lib Dems published a short climate change plan as part of their initial 5 key election pledges. The climate change pledges are to:

  • Generate 80% of electricity from renewables by 2030
  • Insulate all low-income homes by 2025.
  • Raise the energy efficiency standards of all new homes
  • Invest £15 billion over the next Parliament to retrofit 26 million homes.

Agenda:  The Lib Dem Leader Jo Swinson is keen to present the party’s campaign as about more than just stop Brexit.  The environment is a key area for the Lib Dems and the commitments will resonate with its traditional base, many of who moved away from the party owing to discomfort with the Conservative Lib Dem coalition government.

Impact: The pledges reflect the commitments that Lib Dem run councils are now making as part of the Climate Change emergency agenda and go further than the commitments of the two main parties.

 

Fracking Suspended

The Story: In the final days before the dissolution of Parliament, the government announced that it has ended support for fracking. Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.” The freeze will continue “unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely.” What’s more, the mooted introduction of Permitted Development rights for the exploration stage has also been quietly dropped.

Agenda: The topic of fracking is controversial, and campaigners are critical of its environmental impact and claim it causes earthquakes. The announcement came after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority found that it is impossible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.

Impact: It’s uncertain when the suspension will be lifted; already shares in the UK’s shale exploration companies have plummeted, suggesting an uncertain future for the industry. Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng had signalled that gas will continue to have a key role as the government looks to eliminate the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050, however, it will be supplied from sources other than domestic shale gas.

 

From the campaign trail…

There are some familiar names who have thrown their hat into the ring for the election:

  • London’s Deputy Mayor, James Murray, has been selected as Labour’s candidate in safe seat of Ealing North. As it’s a near certainty that Murray will win this seat there will soon be a vacancy for the post of Deputy Mayor for Housing.
  • Leader of Westminster City Council, Nickie Aiken, is the Conservative candidate for the high-profile Cities of London and Westminster seat. She faces stiff competition in the form of a prominent Lib Dem candidate, Chuka Umunna, who will be aiming to capture the central London pro-Remain vote.
  • And in other news, BECG’s own Tom Morrison, now on leave of absence from the Manchester office, is standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Cheadle. The seat was held by the Liberal Democrats between 2001 and 2015; the Conservatives have since held it and won with a majority of 4,507 votes in 2017.

 

Latest Opinion Polling

 

Conservative: 38%

Labour: 26%

Liberal Democrats: 16%

Brexit Party: 10%

Green Party: 4%

 

Source: Rolling poll tracker in The Guardian

 

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