It’s shaping up to be a gripping General Election, with some interesting blurring of traditional party lines as politicians try to capture voter sentiment. We took a look at the two main parties’ manifestos to see what might be in store for infrastructure and development.
Governing parties have a habit of borrowing popular policies from their rivals. The proposed Conservative cap on energy prices being a case in point. That got us wondering what the two main parties’ manifestos were saying about infrastructure.
On infrastructure, the Conservatives’ manifesto is an interesting combination of right and left with fewer specific promises but rather a broad philosophy on policy choices with some top line measures.
Labour’s manifesto, on the other hand, centres on investment-led growth, a new National Investment Bank, renationalising key industries and an economy diversified away from the south east and London.
Here’s our take on how things shape up for individual sectors:
The Conservatives’ top line commitments on infrastructure are to ensure industries and businesses have access to reliable, cheap and clean power, and to deliver the road, rail, airports and broadband that businesses need. But there’s a great deal of room for manoeuvre as to how these goals are reached.
Labour’s most significant Infrastructure policy is to pump £250 billion over 10 years into transport, energy and digital infrastructure. Heavy, top-down control of significant spending projects makes a lot of people understandably nervous, however it is encouraging to note that Labour would maintain and follow the advice of the National Infrastructure Commission.
Arguably the most important domestic issue facing our next government, it is generally agreed that the fundamental problem facing the housing market is one of undersupply. Both parties pledge to fix it and both are committed to prioritising brownfield sites and protecting greenbelt land.
The Conservatives’ commitment to new homes comes at the rate of a million by the end of 2020 and half a million more by the end of 2022. There’s support for high density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraces but with pressure on developers to build higher quality houses to “match previous generations”.
A new Department for Housing would oversee Labour’s plans to invest to build over a million new homes, including 100,000 council and housing association homes a year. They’ll give individual councils new powers to build homes, prioritise building on brownfield sites and propose a next generation of ‘New Towns’.
The Conservatives would develop the shale industry, with a shale wealth fund to direct tax revenues to host communities, and a new environmental regulator. They remain committed to the 2050 carbon reduction objective, but keeping energy costs low for households and businesses through a diverse energy mix is higher on their policy list.
Despite the media hand-wringing, Labour don’t propose full-scale renationalisation, rather a state-run energy supplier for each region to compete with private operators and keep prices down. But they would bring the transmission and distribution grid back under government control, including National Grid and the regulator, Ofgem.
A Labour government would also support nuclear power as part of a drive towards a low-carbon economy. They have promised 60% of the UK’s energy from low-carbon or renewable sources by 2020, and a ban on fracking.
Conservative focus is on extra rail capacity through new lines and stations and improving existing routes. They would continue heavy investment in HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow.
Labour wants the UK to rely less heavily on cars, supporting the completion of HS2 from London through to Scotland together with other new investments, such as a ‘Crossrail’ of the North. They would renationalise the countries’ railways as franchise contracts expire.