• Andrew Black

Whose Manifesto is the Besto?

With 3 weeks to go until election day, the parties are continuing to up the ante as the manifestos are published but which one is coming out tops in terms of planning?


First out of the blocks is the Green Party with their manifesto – ‘if not now, when’. Increasingly with their snappy titles the party manifestos are beginning to sound like characters from that great early nineties kids tv programme called ‘Stop it and Tidy Up’ (see picture on title of this blog) with characters such as ‘not now, later’ and ‘the big bad I said no!’.


The Green Party’s manifesto sets out their own version of The Green New Deal on all manner of topics such as energy; housing; transport; industry; food, farming & forestry; and incomes.

The Greens pledge 100,000 new council homes a year built to the Passivhaus or equivalent standard. Outside of this they pledge that all new developments will be located to ensure that residents do not need cars to live a full live, either having safe pedestrian access to local shops and schools, or are within 1km of a local rail, tube or tram station, or 500m of a high frequency bus service.


The Lib Dems manifesto was launched yesterday as very much the Ronseal Woodstain of manifestos doing exactly what it says on the Tin with the title of ‘Stop Brexit – Build a Brighter Future’.


The Lib Dems spread Housing a little more evenly throughout their manifesto with a similar pledge to the Green of building at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year and ensure that total housebuilding increases to 300,000 each year. All the new houses will be built to zero-carbon standards. The financing for this will come from their £130bn capital infrastructure budget.


One criticism of all the manifestos has been the scale of pledges that are being made by all parties, given all their aims to end austerity and reverse the budget deficit. It can be difficult to envisage exactly how much money £130bn is? One analogy of this I heard earlier this week, courtesy of The Now Show on radio 4, is that 1 million seconds would equate to 12 days. A billion seconds would equate to 32 years!! That gives you some idea of exactly the scale of what is being promised in other areas, particularly around the NHS.


One other selected pledge from the lib dem manifesto is the curious recommendation to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500 per cent where homes are being bought as second homes. In my own borough of Kingston Upon Thames this would increase the band D council tax to £8,315 a year. Certainly something for buy to let landlords to put in their pipe and smoke.


The Labour Party launched their manifesto today under the banner of ‘It’s Time for Real Change’. In it, they have pledged a million homes over a decade. 150,000 council and social homes per year with 100,000 being built by councils for social rent with the duty put on councils to do so. An interesting pledge to scrap the definition of affordable as up to 80% of market rent and replace it with a definition linked to local incomes. Outside of council housing developers will face a ‘use it or lose it’ tax on any stalled housing developments. A re-focus of help to buy is on the cards with focus on first time buyers and local people. Finally, a scrapping of ‘permitted development’ for office to resi which many (including me) have been calling upon for a long while now.


As for the Tories – you’ll have to wait and see I’m afraid. They have said that they will be delaying their manifesto until two weeks before the election. Likely done to give less time for anything within it to come crashing down, as happened in 2017 with May’s announcement on Social Care and subsequent climb down on the dementia tax.


Instead we are getting drip fed parts of the manifesto over the coming weeks. Just today we heard about a £5bn injection into Social Care by Tories and promising that no-one will have to sell their own home to fund their care later in life. However, in reality that £5bn is nowhere near enough to cover the huge deficit in social care funding and the Tories are being extremely bold in promising that no-one will need to sell their own home. Going to a model in England of ‘free personal care’ as is the case in Scotland would cost nearer to £7bn a year or £35bn over the course of the next parliament. 160 years in seconds!


I haven't forgotten about the Brexit Party or UKIP but a pretty binary approach to politics to bother with the nuances of housing and planning policy.


I did quite like the Monster Raving Loony Party's manifest pledge on stamp duty a few years ago though. STAMP duty will be cancelled as stamps are expensive enough without having to pay duty.


Most parties are promising an overhaul of the planning system either through their manifesto or the rhetoric on the election roadshow.


Here’s a radical manifesto pledge for those parties to consider……. How about we don’t do anything to the planning system? How about letting the one we have now bed in for a bit longer? What about looking again at the half baked policy of starter homes we were all promised? It all started well and then never amounted to anything. And whilst we’re at it – how about keeping a housing minister in post for more than 5 minutes? They say a week is a long time in politics. Well its even longer in the realms of a housing minister. In less than 4 years we have had no less than 5 minsters at MHCLG: Messrs Pickles, Clark, Javid, Brokenshire and finally Jenrick. How about we make a pledge to keep the next one in post for at least 3 years?


So whose manifesto is the besto? Well frankly none of them. None of the parties have presented a valid justification of how the pledges in their manifestos. Whether they like it or not, this election IS the Brexit election and whichever parliament, or derivation, is elected thereafter WILL be the Brexit government. Housing, Social Care, Environment, Infrastructure will all come second, third, tenth, wherever behind Brexit Negotiations and subsequent Free Trade agreements.


What I really want is for parties to mean what they say, and then do as they say. Too many missed promises, pledges and manifestos in this country for too long. Brexit or otherwise.

AB – my own thoughts.

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