What next?

Overall there is plenty of sense in what Labour has promised – as ever the challenge will be execution, writes Ben Page.

The General Election is over, and Labour have won a substantial majority.

It inherits a country where 76% say public services have got worse in the last five years, including the majority of Conservative voters. What next?

If parties campaign in poetry and govern in prose, after a thrilling campaign, the fun starts here. Seven out of 10 people in Britain say they want more control over what happens in their local area. Unfortunately they don't tend to also support even giving local government the same tax-raising powers as the devolved Scottish government. Labour knows this.

In opposition, parties are generally keen on empowerment for local government, but in reality, when they find themselves running HM Treasury they find they quite like power, and do not want to give it away.

So, more mayors – most of whom will only be known by a minority of people locally – more combined authorities, some more control over local spend, some simplification of spending pots, and hopefully less bidding for tiny amounts of money.

But, given the cost of debt interest, and inexorable demands for more health and welfare spending with our ageing population, spend itself will be in short supply. Any belief in real fiscal devolution – with all the consequent uneven outcomes that the British see as ‘unfair' – has so far stayed hidden in the desire to get elected. Despite us already having plenty of unfair outcomes all over the UK.

How streamlining planning to get 1.5 million new homes built, cutting through planning rules that local activists –who also populate local parties – love to use to stop new housing and infrastructure, will work in practice is not completely clear.

Passports to build on ‘brownfield' will help, as will 300 new planning officers – they face a heavy burden. It does mean starting on new Local Plans – another chance to try and corral all your local interest groups into a cohesive meaningful vision for your area, and hopefully, more sensible approaches to the audit of local government.

Overall there is plenty of sense in what Labour has promised – as ever the challenge will be execution…

Ben Page is global CEO of Ipsos

X – @benatipsos


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