Manifesto promises little for construction

Published:  15 April, 2010

UK: The Conservative and Labour party manifestos, launched this week, contained little new policy for the construction sector.

Housing could be boosted by Labour's pledges on creating a "new form of affordable housing".

The Conservative manifesto said the party would build several nuclear power stations without government subsidy, and four carbon capture and storage coal power stations, equalling Labour's plans. Its plans for a high-speed rail network also included proposals to extend the network to Wales, beyond what Labour has proposed.

A Conservative government would set up a Green Investment Bank, but the manifesto did not specify how it would work or how much funding it would receive.

Proposals on planning, including the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission and the introduction of incentives to local authorities to encourage house building, repeated earlier pledges in the Tories planning green paper.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "Much of what's in here has already been scrutinised in the various green papers the Tories have published and typically the big questions for the industry will centre around how we pay for infrastructure and reduce the costs of planning."

The Liberal Democrat manifesto is more specific on housing and construction. The party wants cheap loans and grants that would bring 250 000 empty homes back into use at a cost of £1.2bn in 2010-11. On the key question of investment, the Lib Dems went further than Labour or the Conservatives and said, "over time, we will seek to provide a greater degree of subsidy as resources allow to increase the number of new sustainable homes being built."

The party pledged to equalise VAT on repair and maintenance and newbuild, a key demand of the housing and construction sectors.

It also said it will "investigate reforming public sector borrowing requirements to free councils to borrow money against their assets in order to build a new generation of council homes, and allow them to keep all the revenue from these new homes".

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