Tag Archives: conference

Labour conference – roundup special

By Daniel Fryd, Senior Consultant

Despite weeks of internal scrapping over rule-changes, anti-Semitism rows and haranguing from the right-wing press, Labour came together to actually deliver a coherent and articulate vision for their Britain at their conference last week. 

Brexit naturally captured the headlines, and the possibility of a people’s vote has captured the imaginations of Remainers across the country. There were important announcements too on workers’ rights, green jobs and a second homes levy to help alleviate homelessness.  

Homelessness and housing has, of course, always been one of Labour’s strong suits, so when the Shadow Housing Secretary said in his speech last Monday that a Labour government would be “the most radical government on housing for over half a century” we were poised for some significant announcements. 

Labour did, largely, live up to expectations, and in between the largely inappropriate Palestinian flag waving and videos of Corbyn calling the bingo numbers at bizarre fringe events, there was some genuinely important policy announcements which will give the Government some pause for thought. 

Hiking levies on holiday homes 

In what feels like a natural Labour move, Healy announced a second homes levy which would see council tax for properties in England which used as holiday homes doubled, with an average tax bill of more than £3,200.  

This is no small beer: with the number of multiple-home-owners soaring by 30% from 2002 to 2014 there are now 5.2 million in England, particularly concentrated in the holiday coastal regions around Cornwall and Norfolk.

The policy would raise something in the region of £560 million which would go towards addressing homelessness, we are told, although exactly how it is going to be spent is unclear. Labour sources suggest it would be used to help children in temporary accommodation. 

The angry response from the Telegraph which, for some reason, thinks all of its readers have second homes, has just provided greater exposure for the policy. It is only certain portion of the baby-boomer population who bought their homes at the right time who can actually afford to have second homes, of course. While the vast majority of people struggle   

A revolutionary local plan system 

Capturing most interest has been the newly formed Planning Commission, a headline announcement by Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne, which is tasked with giving communities a more substantial voice on town planning. Much to the chagrin of planners and developers still coming to terms with the refreshed NPPF, the Commission will be tasked with proposing a revolutionary new system of local planning which will involve residents more closely. It will also look at land value capture and ways to boost the supply of land throughout the country. 

With representatives from the National Housing Federation, the Local Government Association, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Town and Country Planning Association, Gwynne believes the Commission’s recommendations can turn the balance of planning policy away from being ‘developer-led’ and back to residents. 

Renters unite 

Labour had some good news for renters and those on low incomes as well, with a £20m pledge to set up a new renter’s union. The money would be made available to bidding unions over a three-year period to help grow their services. 

With a huge proportion of renters, especially in cities like London, the move could help ensure renters have the same backing and assistance that 30,000 private residential landlords through the National Landlords Association. 

Leading to victory 

There was only so much that Labour could announce at the Conference, given that they have announced a host of new policies on housing in their ‘Homes for the Many’ report released back in April. In there they pledged, among other things, to build a million “truly affordable” homes and to rip up the definition of what affordable homes are. 

All of this resonates well with an electorate facing the worst housing crisis in recent history, and a Government with a seeming obsession with home ownership. 

Agree with it or not, Labour is making a coherent argument on how to fix the housing crises by increasing levies on the rich, giving communities more power in planning decision, and increasing social house building.  

And agree with them or not, Labour is looking more and more like a party that is getting ready to get into power.

You can read our Tory conference special here and Lib Dem analysis here.