The Labour Party released its official manifesto ahead of the general election on 8 June.
The Labour manifesto offers an optimistic vision for the future that regretfully lacks enough detail. Despite clear efforts to deliver cultural change in house building and construction, Labour has failed to identify the main obstacles to growth for small and medium-sized (SME) businesses.
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) is delighted at Labour’s ambition to make public procurement fairer and tackle the scourge of late payment across supply chains. The focus on regional communities, including efforts to deliver rail electrification and expansion across the whole country through a national transformation fund, is also quite welcome.
The House Builders Association (HBA) supports the creation of a Department for Housing to tackle issues concerning affordability, supply and standards, as well as setting up a National Education Service to develop a skilled workforce. It is quite pleasing to see adult education stand out. However, the manifesto should have recognised existing good practice that would also need stimulus. SMEs build bigger and higher-quality homes more quickly than volume house builders, as well as training two-thirds of apprentices in the industry.
The HBA supports the drive to build more council houses and measures to make tenancies more secure (i.e. changes to leasehold ownership). The NFB and HBA have often spoken in favour of lifting the housing revenue cap imposed on local planning authorities.
Extending Help to Buy will benefit consumers and developers in achieving financial security, but the scheme itself remains a symbol of increasing unaffordability and will never concretely deliver much-needed new homes.
The NFB and the HBA are disappointed that the Labour manifesto fails to mention reform of the planning process. The planning system is a major barrier to growth for many construction businesses. Whilst agreeing that planning authorities have experienced debilitating budget cuts, under-resourcing is not the main factor stifling the UK’s housing supply.
Without mentioning excessive planning conditions, small sites and planning delays, the HBA struggles to understand how a Labour government would actually build more homes and better communities. SMEs are the beating heart of local economies and governments have failed to understand the value their expertise.
There is much to favour about the Labour manifesto, but SMEs still require the detailed certainty that local businesses will be able to operate on a fairer playing field. We hope the Labour Party will explain their ambitions in greater detail over the coming weeks.