Planning permission reforms to spur housebuilding, a ‘swift decision’ on airport capacity and devolving £30bn in central government funding feature in the Labour Party’s 2015 election manifesto
Almost all of the headline pledges in the 86-page document Britain can be better have been trailed in recent months, including the creation of a new local-authority level ‘independent director of school standards’ role, which would include responsibility for commissioning new schools.
At a launch rally in Manchester, Labour leader Ed Miliband said the party’s proposals were fully costed and represented a return to fairness for ordinary people.
‘This plan shows there is no trade-off between being disciplined and making a difference,’ he said.
RIBA president Stephen Hodder welcomed promises on house-building, but cautioned that schools-captial funding needed to be protected as well the wider education budget. He also urged the next government to review aspects of the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework.
Key Labour commitments
Infrastructure: Labour would set up an independent National Infrastructure Commission to assess how to meet the country’s needs – including monitoring implementation and holding the government to account. The commission would ‘prioritise investment in flood prevention’. The party said it would continue to support the construction of HS2 but endeavour to ‘keep costs down’. It pledged a ‘swift decision’ on expanding airport capacity following the report of the Davies Commission.
Schools: Labour would ‘protect’ the entire education budget ‘so that it rises with inflation’ but makes no guarantees within that on funding for new schools or school refurbishment and expansion. It would introduce a new local-authority level role of ‘independent director of school standards’, whose remit would include commissioning new schools in areas of shortage. The Coalition’s Free Schools programme would be ‘ended’.
Housing: Unspecified measures to ‘give local communities new powers to provide the homes they need, in the places they want’; a pledge to increase housebuilding to 200,000 new units a year by 2020; and empowering local authorities to give first-time buyers ‘first call’ on new homes built in housing-growth areas. As recommended in last year’s Lyons Review, councils would also receive ‘use it or lose it’ powers to encourage developers to build. As announced last week, money used in new Help to Buy ISAs would be invested in the housing supply.
Devolution: Labour said it would transfer £30bn of funding to city and county regions with an English Devolution Act that would also include new powers over economic development and housing.
RIBA president Stephen Hodder responds
School-building: ‘Labour’s commitment to protect the schools budget must be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the need to invest in the UK’s schools estate. We face a growing shortage of school places and 80% of our school buildings are in poor condition, failing the students and teachers trying to learn and teach in them. Well-designed buildings improve well-being and cut maintenance costs – vital to the long-term future of the UK’s education system.’
Housing: ‘We welcome the idea that homes should be built where people want to live and shape their communities. The RIBA believes that, to deliver truly affordable housing, the government needs to remove the local authority borrowing cap on Housing Revenue Account receipts.’
Flood defences: ‘The next government should provide real security for communities in areas affected by flooding by introducing legislation committing successive UK governments to build flooding resilience as a strategic priority over the next 100 years. We welcome Labour’s commitments to prioritise investment in flood prevention to better protect communities.’
Planning: ‘The next government should review the National Policy Planning Framework to ensure that it balances the tenets of sustainability. In particular we need to see stronger guidance on viability negotiations to tackle the delays in the current system.’