Blog: 11 December 2019General Election and Manifesto thinking...

Mark Sitch

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Mark Sitch

Planning Director

Birmingham office

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With less than 24 hours to go before the polls open, Senior Partner Mark Sitch shares his thoughts...

“With the nation going to the polls tomorrow (12 December), this General Election remains both wide open and, let’s face it, deeply unsatisfactory for a great proportion of the electorate.  The three leaders of the main parties are struggling for ratings and all three campaigns have limped along rather than invigorated, enlivened or engaged voters.

“Looking at the Conservative and Labour party manifestos, I can’t say I expect people to be talking about these policies in 20 years’ time or featuring in any politics degree textbooks, but probing what they have to say on housing and infrastructure, there is more that unites than divides them.

“There is for example, a consensus that the housing crisis must be taken seriously and that the primary response to it must be to simply build more houses.  Both parties also accept the need for investment in infrastructure and the long-term gains this will yield.  However, they also both fall at the same hurdle: neither manifesto sufficiently details how these plans will be delivered.”

“The last decade has been plagued by an under-delivery of homes which has resulted in the current housing crisis.  Labour’s answer appears to be one caught by further bureaucracy and centralisation, as they pledge to create new accountable housing bodies and set ever higher housebuilding targets. The Conservatives also devolve some of Government’s responsibility, with The New Towns Fund and focus on high streets allowing communities to decide how to spend the money given out.  But details are thin in the sparse manifesto and there is no explanation of how the best use of this money will be guaranteed.


“Both manifestos accurately identify a range of issues in infrastructure and planning, including inadequate regional infrastructure links.  In response, Labour propose nationalisation and billions in public spending as silver bullets but provide little detail to respond to fears that market failure would merely be followed by government failure.

“The Conservative plans to ensure that infrastructure is built before new homes are more encouraging, on the other hand.  Nonetheless, their record on actually delivering homes has been mixed.

“The manifestos only take us so far and the level of promise and pledges in the 2019 election is unprecedented.  What I’m more interested in is how the new administration gets out of the blocks.  The real test will be in what we see in the first 100 days of a new government in terms of action, a budget and delivery.

“The housing crisis needs addressing and long-term thinking, and the economy needs support to grow. Also, infrastructure needs clarity of purpose, policy, planning and investment.  I’m an optimist so I have to say I’m hopeful. 

“Ideally, the 13 December will bring us a government which gets on with supporting good growth and sustainable development.  If I could vote for that, I certainly would.”

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General Election, Manifesto, UK Housing, Infrastructure