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The first in-person party political conferences since the Covid-19 pandemic

Many of the prominent issues facing the housing and health and social care sectors were raised during the 2021 Autumn conferences. Here we round-up some of the proposed policy solutions and party motions from the party conference season so far.

 

The Labour Party

At the Labour Party conference held in Brighton a motion was passed calling on the party to commit to the introduction of mandatory disability pay gap reporting for employers. The pay gap shows that disabled workers earn a fifth (20%) less than non-disabled workers. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Johnathan Reynolds told the conference he would work with disabled people to replace the work capability assessment (WCA). Reynolds said that the party would replace WCA with a system that “supports people to live the lives they want, not one that tries to catch people out to take away their support.”

The Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, also announced the party’s intention to produce a national care service akin to the NHS, an idea backed by Andy Burnham who stated that the plan could ensure greater independence for the disabled.

Moving to housing, Lucy Powell, Shadow Housing Secretary stated that a new settlement for the sector must include a massive increase in council and social homes. It was a sentiment reflected in a motion passed by conference to commit the party to fund councils to deliver 150,000 social rent homes per year, 100,000 of which would be council homes.

Subsequently the party announced it would put a cap on the number of properties in a new development an overseas investor can purchase, giving preference to local first-time local buyers instead.

 

The Conservative Party

From Brighton to Manchester and the Conservative Party Conference.

During the conference it was suggested that government would shift their new homes policy to one which preferences the rejuvenation of brownfield sites. Accordingly Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the new department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities vowed that 6,000 new homes will be built upon brownfield sites by 2024 with councils having now been allocated £58 million. The 53 recipient local authorities will be allowed to clear unused land and remove derelict buildings to provide room for new housing developments.

Former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox spoke to a fringe meeting at the conference about his bill to improve services for people with Down’s syndrome. Dr Fox explained that the bill intends to address the issues related to accessing education, health and social care that people with Down’s syndrome can experience; “There are perfectly preventable tragedies that we can avert by doing something now.”

The Conservative Party Conference followed on from the recently passed Health and Social Care Levy and therefore understandably lacked a major policy announcements relevant to the sector.

 

The Liberal Democrats

Transitioning from the physical land of Manchester to the virtual world of the Liberal Democrat conference in which members called for reforms to address issues surround housing. 

One of the most prominent proposals was to strongly enhance the role of local authorities in regard to new home building, which would be supported by reforming the Land Compensation Act. As part of a pledge to end the housing crisis the party website states the reforms would “allow local authorities to buy ‘landbanked’ land from big developers at its current value instead of its predicted future value.”

 

The Green Party

Shifting attention from the virtual world to Birmingham and the Green Party conference which saw the maiden conference speech of new leadership team Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay.

In the run-up to the conference Denyer spoke at a Day of Action on Empty Homes and called for a ‘retrofitting revolution’ which would bring 270,000 long term empty homes back into use whilst reducing emissions and providing “warm, comfortable homes for many of those who currently can’t afford one, while helping to reduce emissions.”

 

Conclusion

Conference season operated in the shadow of the covid-19 pandemic, exemplified by the Liberal Democrats exclusively virtual conference. Parties took the profound effects that covid-19 has had on political, economic and social systems over the past 18 months as a dramatic before/after moment from which the methods used to address issues must adapt.

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