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Infrastructure blog

The Labour Party manifesto – infrastructure highlights

21 November 2019

The Labour Party has published its general election manifesto. Here we take a look at what it could mean for infrastructure if Labour is elected as the UK’s governing party.

The Labour Party manifesto – infrastructure highlights
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The culmination of a series of already announced proposals to nationalise a number of economic sectors is laid bare in the manifesto.

These include taking rail and bus services into public ownership as current franchise agreements expire, alongside other announcements to nationalise parts of the energy sector and the water companies. Detail on Labour’s most recent announcement to buy Openreach, as part of its aims to provide 29 million homes with full-fibre broadband by 2030, are also outlined.

ICE published a discussion paper towards the back end of 2018 examining the costs of nationalisation. Current ownership of the UK’s core economic infrastructure sectors – transport, energy, water, flood and costal defence assets – is split roughly evenly between the public and private sectors. Labour’s programme for government would create a shift towards greater state ownership.

Ultimately however, whether services are in public or private ownership, a long-term approach to asset management and investment is needed, supported by sensible regulation, good governance and accountability in order to ensure the best value for consumers.

The need for a national infrastructure strategy regardless of the ownership models for infrastructure

The infrastructure on which the public relies also requires careful, long-term and evidenced-based planning. As ICE has outlined before this can come through the production of a comprehensive national infrastructure strategy to focus investment.

While the Labour manifesto is silent on this (and the future role of a National Infrastructure Commission), the significant focus on delivering a cleaner economy gives some hints as to what may drive future infrastructure investment.

The climate change and net-zero emissions agenda

It was widely anticipated that a policy to bring the net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions legal target forward from 2050 to 2030 would be included in Labour’s manifesto. This has not been the case.

However, a £250bn Green Transformation Fund to support the development of a cleaner economy is included, with £60 billion set aside for enhancing the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock by 2030. The manifesto also puts forward a pledge for one million green jobs.

Public concern about climate change has reached record levels in the UK, with 85% of British adults expressing concern in an Ipsos Mori poll (up from 82% when a similar poll was conducted in 2005). It's therefore of little surprise that the 2050 target for net-zero GHG emissions was enshrined in law.

ICE’s State of the Nation 2020 report will focus on the role of the infrastructure sector in achieving the 2050 net-zero target. This week we published an insight paper outlining the challenge that the sector faces and where the key areas of focus for that report will be. It's available here.

The ICE has outlined a three point plan for infrastructure for the next government, to ensure that society gets the infrastructure it needs and can trust it will be delivered.

This includes publishing a comprehensive national infrastructure strategy, taking the difficult decisions needed to deliver the net-zero target, and working to improve productivity across the entire built environment sector.

What, if any, surprises will the Conservative Party manifesto spring?

The ICE policy and public affairs team will publish analysis of the Conservative Party manifesto following its publication on Sunday.

Stay tuned to this blog to read our key takeaways.

  • Ben Goodwin, lead policy manager at ICE