Construction News

Fri December 13 2019

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Labour manifesto pledges: Nukes, sprinklers, walking, HS2 to Scotland... and business loans from your local post office

21 Nov The Labour Party has published its manifesto for the 2019 general election, promising a green industrial revolution and the biggest council house-building programme for a generation.

The 107-page Labour manifesto makes just one specific mention of construction; it is on page 78: “We will set out a strategy for a flourishing construction sector with a skilled workforce and full rights at work.”

There are, however, plenty of things it wants to build – not least housing, which gets 38 mentions.

By 2024 it promises to be building “at least 150,000 council and social homes, with 100,000 of these built by councils for social rent”.

It also promises not just to build HS2, despite its escalating price tag, but to complete “the full HS2 route to Scotland”.

Indeed the manifesto is keener on rail investment than roads. “We will deliver rail electrification and expansion across the whole country,” it says, adding helpfully, “including in Wales”.

Road spending will be focused on local safety improvements, although the manifesto does include a pledge for increased funding for walking.

Other commitments include a £1bn Fire Safety Fund to fit sprinklers in all high-rise council and housing association tower blocks.

More fleshed out is Labour’s economic strategy, which includes a commitment to renewable energy and new nuclear power stations.

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“We will deliver nearly 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030,” Labour says.

A new UK National Energy Agency will own and maintain the national grid infrastructure and oversee the delivery of decarbonisation targets. 14 new Regional Energy Agencies will replace the existing district network operators and hold statutory responsibility for decarbonising power supply. The supply arms of the big six energy companies will be nationalised.

Labour promises to install 7,000 new offshore wind turbines, 2,000 new onshore wind turbines and enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches should it win a parliamentary majority at December’s election.

Other plans include the creation of “a National Investment Bank, backed up by a network of Regional Development Banks, to provide £250bn of lending for enterprise, infrastructure and innovation over 10 years”.

Smaller loans will be made available through Post Office branches for start-ups and small businesses.

Industry reaction

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry said he would have liked to see more about the role of the private sector housing developers in Labour’s promised housing revolution. “This country is in dire need of a housing revolution to address the critical lack of homes that is hampering the very fabric of our society. It is therefore pleasing that Labour are placing the delivery of housing at the forefront of their manifesto commitments,” he said. “However, if supply is to meet demand, there needs to be a strong collaboration between the public and private sectors as neither can deliver the required upsurge in delivery alone. Labour’s manifesto places an overemphasis on the role of the state in supplying homes with very little detail on the role of the private sector in this endeavour.”

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