The General Election Manifestos: What's in Them for Cities?

The upcoming general election has brought with it a flurry of manifestos from the different political parties. While they all share the common goal of a more inclusive and equal country, their strategies to achieve...

The upcoming general election has brought with it a flurry of manifestos from the different political parties. While they all share the common goal of a more inclusive and equal country, their strategies to achieve this differ. For cities, these manifestos have particular significance. In this article, we analyze what the Labour and Conservative parties have pledged on five key issues for city economies.

Devolution

Devolution

Devolution, a topic that featured heavily in the 2015 general election, seems to have taken a backseat in the current manifestos. The Conservatives, while in coalition, paved the way for devolving powers to cities, leading to the election of powerful new metro mayors. They now want to see more metro mayors elected and rely on local authorities and partnerships to deliver their industrial strategy at the local level.

On the other hand, the Labour Party limits its commitment to devolution to those local authorities that show an appetite for it. Although they plan to introduce a presumption of devolution, their focus is more national than local. While both approaches have their merits, long-term commitment to devolution is crucial for the growth and prosperity of cities.

Industrial Strategy

Industrial Strategy

The main divide between Labour and the Conservatives lies in their approach to industrial strategy. Labour's plan leans towards a sector-oriented strategy, with the creation of Regional Development Banks to support local businesses. On the other hand, the Conservatives propose a national industrial strategy that consists of many local strategies, coordinated by local authorities and partnerships. By focusing on places rather than sectors, the industrial strategy can create more opportunities for growth and attract new industries.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure

Infrastructure improvements are a key focus for both parties, with Labour specifically highlighting transport infrastructure. They plan to complete projects like HS2 and the Science Vale transport arc, as well as promote high-speed rail connections and invest in a National Transformation Fund. The Conservatives also pledge their support for HS2, Heathrow Airport Expansion, and a high-speed rail route connecting northern cities. Both parties recognize the importance of improving transportation within cities, as this can have a greater impact on economic growth.

Housing

Housing

All parties promise to build more homes, with a focus on affordability. However, the issue lies in the spatial distribution of these houses. While the UK as a whole may not have a housing crisis, the Greater South East region does. Parties need to consider this spatial picture and build homes where they are needed the most. Additionally, by protecting the Green Belt, parties miss an opportunity to build more homes in areas with high demand.

Education

Education

Both the Conservatives and Labour have ambitious plans for education and skills development. The Conservatives emphasize reducing regional differences, improving social mobility, and focusing on technical education. They plan to introduce new institutes of technology, specialist maths schools, and create apprenticeships. In contrast, Labour wants to promote lifelong learning, guarantee access to education, and scrap university fees. Both parties recognize the importance of education in driving economic growth and productivity.

Moving Forward

The manifestos offer insights into each party's vision for cities and their economies. However, there is still room for improvement in addressing the challenges faced by cities, such as attracting business investments. The success of any government lies in understanding and tackling the specific needs of each place, ensuring greater prosperity across the country. As the general election approaches, it is essential to carefully consider each party's proposals for cities and their potential impact on local economies.

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