Home » Election 2024: Now Labour has to deliver

Election 2024: Now Labour has to deliver

by Mark Cantrell
Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, and his wife Victoria Starmer cast their votes in the 2024 General Election in North London. Thursday, 4 July 2024.

The results are in, the electorate has spoken, and the Conservatives are ousted from power after 14 years in office; Keir Starmer is propelled into Number 10 as the leader of a new Labour government

A landslide win for Labour was hardly a surprise, though the drama of election night was no less for that. The Conservatives suffered their worst election defeat in a century. A string of high profile ministers lost their seats. Labour secured a historic landslide – the second largest in its history.

There’s a lot to take in and digest, as the handover of power commences, and we anticipate the formation of Starmer’s new cabinet, but initial reactions from industry are coming in.

Over the coming days, we can no doubt expect plenty more, as the new incumbents settle in – hit the ground running, as the new prime minister will have it – and the sector measures up the new political environment.

Leading the charge, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has stressed the importance of the construction industry, and the crucial role it plays in improving social, economic, and environmental outcomes in all areas of the UK.

The organisation also issued an urgent plea for the housing ministerial role to have some heft to it – not to mention stability, given how notorious this brief has become for its ‘revolving door’ of short-lived incumbents.

Eddie Tuttle, director for policy, external affairs and research at CIOB, said: “A new government offers the opportunity to build new relationships with policymakers and help them understand the challenges and opportunities for the sector.

“We look forward to working with The Labour government to help deliver on their manifesto commitments, which included building 1.5m homes over this Parliament (2024-2029), reforming the planning system, delivering a Warm Homes Plan to upgrade the energy efficiency of 5m homes, and developing a national industrial strategy to drive economic growth.

“But to do this, we and the new government must be realistic about the challenges the construction industry is facing, notably the shrinking skills base and the ageing construction workforce, with significant numbers of workers retiring and a lack of new entrants joining.”

Tuttle added: “The construction sector is reliant on stability, and we urge the Labour government to ensure consistency and longevity with policy making and its communications with industry. A first step is to ensure the next minister for housing holds the brief for the long term so meaningful relationships can be formed between them and experts within the sector to create policies that work for us all. Furthermore, given the strategic importance of the construction sector, we believe it should be recognised as such at cabinet minister level.”

Marie-Claude Hemming, director of operations at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), said: “Now that the dust has settled from the 2024 general election, it is imperative that the new UK government moves swiftly to unblock delayed projects and leave no stone unturned in pursuit of growth.”

Hemming added: “A booming infrastructure sector is the backbone of any successful economy, and we are heartened that the Labour Party has recognised the UK’s civil engineering industry as a cornerstone of its vision for delivering growth for the benefit of businesses and communities across the UK.

“We stand ready to work with the new Government to make this vision a reality – by delivering world-class infrastructure projects, addressing pinch-points in investment, and ensuring the skills are in place to build the stronger, more sustainable British economy that we all want to see.”

Muyiwa Oki, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), declared the election result a “monumental moment” for the UK, and an “opportunity for Labour to prove it will deliver on the changes it has committed to”.

He added: “Its manifesto doesn’t have all the answers, but it shows ambition – not least to tackle the housing crisis by boosting the delivery of high-quality homes and fixing our broken planning system.

“The time for bold, decisive action to deliver a safer, greener and more equitable built environment is now. We look forward to working together over the coming years – bringing architects’ expertise to the table to solve the complex challenges our country faces.”

The house expects

Unsurprisingly, given the urgency of the issue, housebuilding is a prominent theme. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that Labour’s “historic win” offers an opportunity to tackle the UK’s chronic and worsening housing crisis.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the date of the general election
Wash out: Rishi Sunak announces the date of the general election. Picture by Edward Massey/ CCHQ. Some rights reserved

Brian Berry, the FMB’s chief executive, said: “The election of the new Labour government offers a fresh start to get Britain building. Labour’s pledge to build 1.5m new houses over the next five years, and upgrade 5m existing homes, are ambitious targets but very much needed if the growing housing crisis is to be addressed.

“The success of Labour’s housing targets will very much depend on two key issues being addressed. First, the need to reform the planning system to make it easier and quicker to build. Secondly, the urgent need to tackle the skills crisis ensuring we have enough skilled workers in the construction industry to build the homes needed.”

Berry added: “For too long local authority planning departments have been underfunded with the result that planning applications have been held up. Additional funding for planning departments offers hope that the planning process will speed up to deliver the homes that are needed. A long-term training and skills plan to tackle the shortage of construction workers is desperately needed, as is the need for some form of minimum competency level for builders to ensure quality homes are built, and the ones we have are upgraded to the best standards.”

Lindsay Garratt, planning partner at law firm Winckworth Sherwood, said: “Labour’s decision not to include housing as one of its six key priorities in its election manifesto disappointed many in the sector – particularly given it’s such a vital factor in the health and success of the nation and the growth of the economy generally.

“It’s however being trailed that the new government will be unveiling housing policy, such as written ministerial statements and a revised NPPF, within days. While this will need to take time to be consulted on, clarity over the direction of travel cannot come soon enough.

“While the campaign has talked about headline policies to reinstate housing targets and allow for ‘greybelt’ release, the reality is that the web of challenges confronting the sector is complicated. To really get Britain building, the incoming government needs to quickly get to grips with the full extent of viability pressures currently experienced by those at the coal face of housing delivery.

“Hopefully with Labour confirmed in government, the industry can breathe a sigh of relief that proposals to replace the S106 /CIL regime with yet another new infrastructure levy will – at least – be dismissed.”

Greg Carter, construction partner at Winckworth Sherwood, added: “In the fervour of an election campaign, building safety has not been in the limelight. However, as Labour reflects on a historic election win, the party must quickly realise that challenges around building safety legislation have not gone away. In fact, they are crippling parts of the housebuilding sector.

“There are over 30 pieces of secondary legislation that developers are grappling with, causing significant operational and financial challenges that risk upsetting the delivery of homes. As developers continue to invest significant time and money in these changes the new government must deliver the clarity and certainty it needs.”

Mark White, managing director of Hampshire-based housebuilder Bargate Homes, part of affordable housing provider Vivid, said: “I am pleased that the party in power across the UK and the direction of travel is so clear. Businesses, organisations, global investors and stakeholders – and the public at large – can base decisions on the political stability that should go hand-in-hand with this landslide election result.

“With Sir Keir Starmer being tasked with leading the new government, the SME housebuilding community will be looking for swift detail and action, as there is so much to do to reverse the damage done by Michael Gove. How bold is Labour prepared to be to enact on its manifesto promises? Reintroducing top down housing targets, turning the clock back on the NPPF changes that have been so catastrophic for housing delivery, and large-scale planning reform, should be amongst the first three priorities.

“The property and construction industry is impatient to know how Labour intends to get Britain building again. Will the current Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities structure and hierarchy stay, or be replaced? Who will be appointed as the new housing minister? Implementing change down to a local authority level will be a monumental task. We cannot wait until the end of this five-year Parliament term to see new government policies enacted at a local level.”

Political stability

Craig Carson, managing director of Barratt West London, said: “For the first time in nearly a decade, there will be a Labour government working together with the Mayor of London and with a commitment to build 1.5m homes across the next parliament, overhaul the planning system and, perhaps crucially for Londoners, to take a brownfield-first approach when it comes to development.

“The prioritisation of brownfield and the new greybelt land will help unlock large swathes of land for development, including former car parks and commercial units. This will be particularly beneficial in the outer boroughs of London such as Barnet, Harrow, Ealing, Newham and Brent, alongside more central locations such as Southwark, ensuring developers can accelerate build programmes and deliver much-needed high quality, sustainable homes for Londoners.

“It is vital that the new government works with the Mayor to create a pro-development environment and offer support to first time buyers and young families to be able to get a foot on the ladder in the capital.”

James Dickens, managing director of Wavensmere Homes, said: “From an apolitical standpoint, it is positive to see a moderate party elected with such a strong mandate, which should provide the ability to deliver change, alongside much-needed political stability.

“After 14 years of the Conservatives in Number 10, this new Labour administration has promised sweeping reforms to the planning system and a reintroduction of mandatory local housing targets … Hiring 300 additional planners to help expedite decisions will be a small step in the right direction, but many more policy and legislative changes are required to address the chronic lack of supply of new homes.

“It’s also encouraging that Labour has pledged to tackle typical brownfield build-rates, which are on average 34% slower than greenfield sites.

He added: “We’re keen to see how quickly and effectively Labour can implement change to fulfil the Party’s pledge of 1.5 million new homes during this Parliament.”

Main image: Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, and his wife Victoria Starmer cast their votes in the 2024 General Election in North London. Thursday, 4 July 2024. Some rights reserved CC by NC-ND 2.0

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