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

Top takeaways from the Liberal Democrats manifesto launch

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Photo by Tandem X Visuals on Unsplash

This article outlines the LGIU’s topline takeaways from today’s Liberal Democrat manifesto launch in relation to the implications it holds for the local government sector. Next week, we’ll be releasing an in-depth LGIU member-exclusive briefing exploring the implications of all the party manifestos for the local government sector. If you’re an LGIU member, make sure you’re subscribed to our daily newsletter to not miss out! 

We’ve reached manifesto week in the UK general election campaign and the parties are setting out their pitches to the electorate ahead of 4 July. Councils will be curious, dare we say hopeful, to see what’s in store for local government in the policy promises, spending commitments and narratives that each party makes its case with.

A detailed briefing on the manifestos for LGIU members will follow early next week, but for now, here are some initial thoughts.

First up it’s the turn of the Liberal Democrats who launched their manifesto this morning under the slogan “fair deal”. It pledges to deliver change in the economy, public services and the environment, but with a narrative pitched towards care and Ed Davey’s experiences as a carer in particular.

The Liberal Democrats also promise to create a National Care Agency to outline the minimum standards of care and we’d recommend that they and others look again at our recent work on proposals for a National Care Service in Scotland, which contains some useful insights. Also included in their manifesto is the pledge to increase the Carer’s Minimum Wage; create a social care workforce plan; and establish a Royal College of Care Workers to improve recognition and career progression in the sector.

For local government finance, there is a potentially very interesting commitment to introduce multi-year funding settlements. Lib Dem HQ must have been reading LGIU’s recent work closely because we’ve called for exactly this in our LGIU@40 For the future of local government manifesto. More detail needs to follow, of course, but it is encouraging to see our members’ proposals picked up like this, especially as they are based on detailed research with leading figures across the sector and analysis of other funding systems around the world.

We’ve also recommended that forums be set up to facilitate cross-sector and cross-party agreement on crucial issues like funding, social care, housing and climate change, as well as to support better dialogue between local government and the centre. So it is interesting to see how this has been picked here, with a promise to develop cross-party agreement on social care. A Minister for Rural Communities that would operate across departments is an interesting proposal that might begin to address the problem of Whitehall fragmentation.

There was little about devolution and regional governance, other than to say that decision-making will be decentralised, no area will have an elected mayor imposed on them and that council reorganisation will end, though there were several commitments to empower local government to take action on net zero and housebuilding. The preference for citizens’ assemblies at various levels to develop net zero strategies is interesting, again reflecting our work that shows the importance of local democratic support for climate action.

This is coupled with perhaps one of the most striking proposals for councils: reforming the electoral system to enable 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in a proportional system for local elections.

There is a lot more detail to come and our briefing for LGIU members will deliver that analysis of the manifestos next week. There are also plenty of questions to follow up on regarding the promises outlined here – no doubt we will hear more as the campaign unfolds. But for now, it is interesting and encouraging to see some of our proposals shaping the ideas and approaches in this election.



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