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How will the new Government change things?

With campaigns run, votes cast, seats won and lost, the UK finally has a new Government. So, Jim McClelland asks: What does all this mean for business and the built environment?

It is over, at last; no more dull TV debates, candidate name-calling, or constituency junk mail. At least for now, UK Government can get back to the business of running the country.

In stark contrast to the pre-election conflict and flux in the US, or shock coalition scenario emerging in France, the UK has the novel prospect of a period of stable Government in place for a full term of up to five years.

Furthermore, Labour can begin keeping manifesto promises with the massive advantage of a so-called ‘supermajority’ of over 180 seats.

Even before the final outcome was announced, exit polls prompted positive noises from business and industry, including Greg Jackson, Founder of Octopus Energy, who said:

"The results look clear – voters have rejected anti net-zero rhetoric and chosen cheaper, cleaner, more secure energy. This looks like a landslide for a green economy.”

So, how confident are we the new Government can deliver on its campaign promises?

You know you are doing something right when your opponents lose their cool!

Jim McClelland Jim McClelland Sustainable futurist, editor, journalist and speaker

Cabinet experience and expertise

Well, one of the more encouraging arguments in favour of the incoming administration being able to effect meaningful change is the make-up of the new Cabinet.

The previous government was exhibiting all the symptoms of a depleted squad of Ministers, as a result of years of revolving-door policy at Number 10. Multiple leadership changes and Cabinet reshuffles meant many of the more obvious candidates had been and long gone, leaving colleagues that were either relatively junior or simply less suitable.

By contrast, Labour can field a starting selection of MPs with direct relevant experience and expertise, both personally and professionally, making them strong picks for their roles.

Obviously, any party that had been in opposition for some time, but fully expected to be victorious in the upcoming Election, should have plans in place and personnel in mind.

In many cases, names already doing the job in the Shadow Cabinet were ready simply to jump into Government seats. Examples of like-for-like swaps include Secretary of State for Business and Trade Jonathan Reynolds MP, Secretary of State for Transport Louise Haigh MP, plus Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Peter Kyle MP.

Even more noteworthy are the credentials of the Ministers now in some of the top jobs.

With a Masters degree from London School of Economics, incoming Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves MP can draw on career experience in business at both the Bank of England and HBOS in addition to time in academia and Parliament.

As the Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHUC), Angela Rayner MP not only retains her Shadow responsibilities, but does so as Deputy Prime Minister. It could be a major benefit to the housing sector to have such a heavyweight politician assuming that key role, bringing their influence to bear in Cabinet.

Perhaps the most impactful appointment, however might be that of former Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband MP as Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero.

Miliband has a deep knowledge and understanding of the sector and the agenda, having been Secretary of State for what was then a newly created Department for Energy and Climate Change, as far back as 2008-10, under Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP.

Ironically, perhaps the most powerful measure of his potential can be seen in the reaction to his appointment from the political magazine The Spectator.

Before his term in office has even begun, the right-wing publication is already describing him as likely to prove a “big liability” at the helm of Labour’s “hugely ambitious plan to decarbonise the national grid by 2030”. You know you are doing something right when your opponents lose their cool!

Prospects under a ‘clean energy superpower’

So, what should we expect in the first 100 days?

Back in 1997, when Labour last came back to power after a long dark spell in opposition, they declared their intention under Tony Blair to ‘hit the ground running’, granting the Bank of England independence for monetary policy in a landmark move on Day One.

Whilst not delivering quite the same iconoclastic gut punch to traditionalists, the ascension of Keir Starmer does seem to be following a similar fast-start playbook. So, under a banner of 'Get Britain building again’, the new Chancellor has immediately fired an opening salvo in the battle to improve the planning process and stimulate investment in infrastructure.

Reeves not only announced support for local authorities in the shape of 300 more planning officers countrywide, but also a big boost for clean power, too, in a bold statement backing renewables: “As of today, we are ending the absurd ban on new onshore wind in England.”

Green jobs and warm homes

These early-doors initiatives are aligned with pledges in the Labour Party 2024 Manifesto.

At the heart of the Party’s bid to make Britain a clean energy superpower will be its Green Prosperity Plan where, in partnership with business through the National Wealth Fund, Government will invest to create 650,000 jobs across the country by 2030.

Supporting a different sort of onshoring, this plan also intends to reward clean energy developers with a British Jobs Bonus. It will allocate up to £500M per year from 2026 to incentivise firms who offer good jobs, terms and conditions, building their manufacturing supply chains in industrial heartlands, coastal areas, and energy communities.

It aims to close loopholes in the windfall tax on oil and gas, too, rejecting calls to issue new permits for North Sea exploration, although it stopped short of revoking any already made.

Its biggest policy play will create a new publicly owned company, Great British Energy.

As part of its Warm Homes Plan, the Government aims to improve energy efficiency in British homes as well, by investing an extra £6.6bn over this first term in office

Shovels in the ground, cranes in the sky

In a key speech last October, Starmer had already promised “shovels in the ground and cranes in the sky” as part of a drive to build 1.5M new homes over five years. In fairness, both the Conservative Party (1.6M) and the Liberal Democrats (1.9M) promised more.

However, before we get too excited, it is worth noting we have been here before…

Despite ambitions to deliver 300,000 new homes a year (down from 400,000), the previous Government managed only 212,570 in 2022/23. Their lowest total, in 2012/13, was a paltry 125,000, their best only rose as high as 243,000, in 2019/20.

So, even 1.5M over five years would be record-breaking stuff. Let’s wait and see…

Rate cuts and a feelgood factor

Obviously, the mood of the nation would be greatly improved if this month of July saw the first of a much hoped-for programme of rate cuts being made by the Bank of England.

With inflation down at the target level of 2% and other indicators supporting an easing of monetary policy, investors and mortgaged-up homeowners alike have their fingers firmly crossed for some sign the economy is truly and finally on the mend.

That said… All that any Government really needs for a feelgood factor, (with apologies to football fans in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is an England win at the Euros!

Jim McClelland is a sustainable futurist, editor, journalist and speaker