England & Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance

Top takeaways from the Conservative manifesto launch

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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Next up in manifesto week it’s the turn of the Conservatives. Following the party’s manifesto launch at Silverstone this morning, here is our first take on the proposals and what they suggest for local government.

Firstly, when it comes to local government finance and the ongoing crisis that LGIU has consistently called for the government to pay due attention to, there is not a huge amount that will bring cheer to councils.

The manifesto contains a commitment on funding for social care, to “supporting a high-quality and sustainable social care system, building on our additional investment of up to £8.6bn over the last two years.” And following up with an indication of a preference for multi-year funding, in the context of supporting social care:

“At the next Spending Review, we will give local authorities a multi-year funding settlement to support social care and will take forward the reforms in our ‘People at the Heart of Care’ White Paper.”

There is another indication of how the party might approach grant allocations in local government funding, with a commitment to “recognise the unique circumstances of coastal areas” in the distribution formula.

On devolution – another area that is extremely important for LGIU and our members in local government – the Conservatives promise that: “By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal.” They also state that any area with a deal will be offered ‘level 4’ devolution powers, with Tees Valley, led by the Conservative mayor Ben Houchen, first in the queue.

Some of the commitments demonstrate that the model for local growth will be relatively unchanged. The party promises more on freeports, business rate retention zones and investment zones, as well as more urban development corporations that will draw on partnerships with the private sector and institutional investors.

At LGIU we have set out recommendations to help councils work with small and medium-size developers and to unlock small sites as an essential piece of the puzzle to meet national housing targets. So it’s good to see the commitment echoed here, though it is coupled with new requirements that “councils set land aside for them and lifting Section 106 burdens on more smaller sites.”

There are also further restrictions on how councils spend their money by:

“Making sure local authorities use the new Infrastructure Levy to deliver the GP surgeries, roads and other local infrastructure needed to support homes. We will not allow these funds to be spent on community projects that bear no relation to support for new homes.”

In the same vein – despite successes and positive feedback on trials in several local authorities – the manifesto contains a commitment to ban four-day working weeks in local authorities.

Some of the other proposals include powers for councils to tackle pavement parking, prevent travellers’ sites, control holiday lets, and a promise to deliver a Family Hub in every local authority in England – which many councils will be interested in following up on.

The eye-catching proposal to compel 18-year-olds to undergo National Service will be funded in the long run by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, formerly levelling up funds.

There is much more in this document to pick through and discuss, and our full briefing for LGIU members next week will provide an essential breakdown of all the manifestos.



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