General Election Briefing 2024 | #1

As we approach the general election our Senior Engagement Specialist Mark Cawdrey shares a weekly update on what each party is talking about and how it affects the built environment.


On 22 May, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a snap general election, surprising many given the current polling disparities. Current averages place Labour at 45% and the Conservatives at 23%. This situation suggests a likely Labour majority unless significant changes occur during the campaign.

*Prediction as of 25/05/2024 (SNP/PC vote share is of their constituent nations)

Political Landscape

Labour Party:

Labour’s campaign strategy revolves around steady, incremental changes. It is focused on planning reforms, energy security, and infrastructure development. A key initiative is the creation of Great British Energy, a publicly owned company based in Scotland, to spearhead renewable energy projects.

Conservative Party:

The Conservatives aim to consolidate their base, emphasising economic stability and tax policies. They have pledged to maintain the current VAT, income tax, and National Insurance rates and to protect pension plans through the “triple lock” policy, ensuring pension growth in line with the highest inflation, average earnings, or a minimum of 2.5%.

Liberal Democrats:

The Liberal Democrats have focused on environmental policies, including ambitious water management plans. They also emphasise enhancing apprenticeship programmes and skills development.

Green Party:

The Greens have proposed a “Rights of Nature Act” to recognise ecosystems’ legal rights, aiming to protect 30% of the UK’s land and marine areas by 2030.

Key Issues and Impact on the Industry

In general

The Labour Party certainly sounds much more open to development and seems to recognise how much the planning system is diminishing opportunities for development and growth. Kier Starmer has made it clear that planning reform is at the centre of his plans for economic growth. Promises of ambitious reforms that will fast-track applications looking to address energy security, some Green Belt releases and a focus on getting infrastructure built are all anticipated.

Planning and Development:

Labour’s proposed reforms aim to streamline the planning process, particularly for renewable energy projects. This includes identifying ‘Grey Belt’ areas within the Green Belt that have lower ecological value and better transport links for development. These changes could unlock new opportunities for construction and development, address housing shortages, and support economic growth.

However, pressure from Labour-led councils dealing with opposition from local residents (NIMBYs) may influence the longevity of a Labour government’s enthusiasm for such reforms. Over the Parliament,  intense local election battles are anticipated over this issue, which could potentially erode Labour’s local government base.

Renewable Energy:

Labour’s focus on renewable energy projects, especially offshore wind farms in the North Sea, is expected to boost job creation and reduce energy costs. This aligns with their broader strategy for achieving energy security and addressing climate change. One pledge Labour has made during the election campaign is to create Great British Energy, a Scotland-based publicly owned company, to achieve their energy goals.


Both major parties have outlined plans for significant infrastructure investments. Labour intends to merge the National Infrastructure Commission with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, creating a more cohesive approach to infrastructure delivery. This could lead to more efficient project management and resource allocation, benefiting large-scale construction projects and enhancing the UK’s overall infrastructure.

Skills and Apprenticeships:

There has been significant discussion around apprenticeships and skills development. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has echoed concerns about the apprenticeship levy, noting that many businesses struggle to use their levy allowance effectively. Labour proposes a new growth and skills levy to address short-term skills gaps and support modular training for emerging needs like AI and continuing professional development. The Conservatives plan to legislate to close underperforming university courses and redirect savings to fund 100,000 apprenticeships annually.

Review of Smart Motorways:

Labour has announced a review of smart motorways to address safety concerns and improve traffic management. This review could lead to significant changes in motorway infrastructure, potentially impacting ongoing and future projects. The outcome will be important for contractors and consultants involved in road construction and maintenance.

Water Industry:

The Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign proposing that Ofwat, the current water regulator, be replaced with a new regulator with stronger enforcement powers to fine and prosecute companies failing to meet standards. However, concerns have been raised that this could conflict with existing water company contracts.

Water supply issues and wastewater contamination have been identified as important topics that all parties want to address. The Conservative Party, in particular, has been cautious about discussions around regulating private water companies.

The water sector exemplifies the sensitivities around effectively regulating private companies while also not decimating private investment in utilities like Thames Water. The role of private investment in water infrastructure can be linked to the broader discussion on how parties plan to incentivise private funding of projects, given constraints on public spending.


Climate change remains a central issue, with all major parties proposing various measures to address environmental challenges. The Green Party’s “Rights of Nature Act” aims to provide ecosystems with legal rights, potentially influencing planning and development regulations. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have also outlined plans to boost renewable energy projects and enhance environmental protections. These initiatives will require careful navigation of new regulations and increased investment in sustainable practices.

However, so far, the environment and funding commitments for the transition to net zero have been almost completely absent from announcements in the first week.  Whether more will be included in the manifestos in the coming weeks is yet to be seen.

Economic Policies:

While no major tax increases are proposed, the next government will face challenging fiscal constraints. Any new spending, particularly on infrastructure and public services, will require careful budget management. This could impact funding availability for public projects and influence private sector investments, making it essential for businesses to stay agile and responsive to policy changes.

Analysis: Party Strategy, Voter Demographics and Policy Gaps

Labour will likely continue with its safety-first strategy, capitalising on the public’s desire for change rather than enthusiasm for Labour itself. The Conservatives, however, will focus on limiting their losses, potentially dropping below the 200-seat mark, as suggested by the New Statesman model. To mitigate this, the Conservatives’ talking points aim to energise their base to turn out and vote, thus minimising their losses.

The demographic data for England and Wales reveals significant insights into the voting population and potential gaps in party policies:

Age bracketPopulation of England & Wales (millions)People Registered to vote (millions)% of age bracket registered to vote% of total registered voters
10 to 175,635,551N/AN/AN/A
18 to 3413,007,8119,105,46870%22%
35 to 447,737,3746,499,39484%16%
45 to 547,912,1537,200,05991%18%
55 to 647,484,6477,035,56894%17%
(Population statistics taken from UK Census data, Statistics on numbers registered to vote taken from Electoral Commission data)

The 65+ age group constitutes a significant portion of the registered voting population, with over 10.7 million registered voters. This demographic typically has high voter turnout rates and has historically leaned towards the Conservative Party. This could explain the recent flurry of Conservative promises aimed at older generations.


The upcoming general election is pivotal for the UK’s political and economic landscape. Each party’s policies will significantly affect the built environment and consultancy sectors. Staying informed and adaptable will be crucial for navigating the post-election period.

We will continue to provide updates and detailed analysis as more information becomes available, especially following the release of the manifestos. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or for further discussion on how these developments might impact your business.