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Welsh Conservatives Manifesto Response – Emily Cotterill
<< Back Posted on 5th May 2021
Blog

By Carolyn Brownell

Welsh Conservatives Manifesto Response – Emily Cotterill

We’ve compared the promises of the Conservative Manifesto to our Recovery Manifesto for Cities and High Streets to see how their policies stack up.

Our Recommendations

  • Conduct a large-scale review of business rates

No –the Conservatives mention abolishing business rates for small businesses, whilst this will be good news for many the fact remains that business rates are not solely an issue for our smallest businesses. Across the board hospitality and bricks and mortar retail are unfairly burdened by this inequitable tax. The Conservatives seem to understand that business rates are fundamentally broken when they reference an ‘outdated tax on growth’ but removing rates only for small businesses is surely doubling down on this problem rather than solving it.

  • Allow city centre partnerships to participate more fully in the development of cities through increased powers coupled with stronger regulation

No – as with Labour and Plaid the Tories’ manifesto is not interested in cities, in fact the word city doesn’t feature at all. There’s no explicit mention of any form of place management partnership in the document although the context of their government in the UK suggests that they would continue to support the BID model in Wales in the same manner that it was introduced by Welsh Labour.

  • Maintain the benefits of good office environments whilst transitioning to a blended and accessible working dynamic

Not explicitly – there’s only one reference to working from home and the altered work patterns of the post-pandemic world and that relates to rural communities. The lack of targeted policy in this area means that the Conservatives aren’t likely to fall into the trap we feared around ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ on offices but equally the reality of office-based working has fundamentally shifted in the past year and it is a shame not to see the impact of that on cities and towns, positive or negative, addressed at all.

  • Empower communities to take charge of neglected or mismanaged spaces and prevent the destruction of historic and socially relevant structures

Yes – the Conservative manifesto introduces a Community Ownership Fund and a Right to Bid in relation to assets in the community. There’s limited detail but as the Conservatives in Westminster introduced a similar proposition for England it seems reasonable to imagine this policy would take a similar form. The manifesto also mentions allowing communities to take control of facilities which benefit the local community and there’s a reference to overhauling planning although use of the phrase ‘cutting red tape’ suggests that this might be more about fast-tracking developments than it is about empowering community stakeholders.

  • Supercharge the Town Centre First approach and bring public services into vacant central properties

No – as with Plaid it was unlikely to hear the name of this Labour policy repeated in the manifesto of a competing party. There’s nothing in the manifesto about location decisions for public services or about vacant high street properties at all.

  • Position, protect, and strengthen cultural institutions in city centres

We don’t think so – the Tories say ‘[a]t the centre of our communities are the arts and  charitable organisations, and the individuals that support them’ which is certainly true but beyond this there is no detail of how  these organisations will be strengthened and supported and definitely no specific reference to city centres.

  • Defend free to access spaces and space for young people in particular

No – but then as we’ve said in response to other parties though this is a key element for the future of town and city centres but it is difficult and unlikely to be explicitly legislated for.

  • Continue to invest in developing integrated high-quality public transport infrastructure

If you live in the north – the only explicit reference to public-transport in the manifesto is to ‘level-up and join-up public transport in North Wales’ which is a policy few would argue against. Elsewhere the Conservatives mention issues with bus and train services but no policy solutions are offered and the manifesto doesn’t explicitly reference the rest of the nation at all. This manifesto recognises that Wales’ over-stretched transport system ‘acts as a barrier to business’ but their plans to overcome this do little for the nation’s major business districts.

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