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Welsh Labour MANIFESTO RESPONSE – EMILY COTTERILL
<< Back Posted on 4th May 2021
Blog

By Carolyn Brownell

Welsh Labour MANIFESTO RESPONSE – EMILY COTTERILL

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

  • Conduct a large-scale review of business rates

No – there’s nothing in the Labour manifesto on business rates. The party do commit to reforming council tax, business rates’ domestic cousin, to ‘ensure a fairer tax system for all’. Many of the flaws of council tax are also true of business rates and so there is perhaps hope that a reform of one system will lead to change in another – unfortunately it seems that this change in business rates will not come fast enough.

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

Sort of – an undefined array of ‘local partners’ will be involved in developing ‘masterplans’ for towns and high streets – as with the other parties cities are low on Welsh Labour’s radar. Whilst the broad tone of the manifesto, and the spirit of Labour as a party, suggest that these partners will be community led we can benefit from the context of office and know that Labour in The Bay support BIDs and their key role in city and town centres. There is every reason to believe that BIDs and other place management bodies will be admitted as a key element of these ‘partnerships’ although there’s no suggestion of either more powers for BIDs or tougher regulation of them at this point.

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

Not really – it was the Labour led government in the Bay that developed the 30% working close to home target and so it naturally follows that the theme of the manifesto is more remote working than specific offices. Labour plans for co-working hubs could help to support town and city centres and maintain the benefits of good working environments but these policies don’t fully relieve our concerns about the ‘end of the office’ being prematurely rushed through.

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

Hard to say – Labour promise that ‘we will empower communities to have a greater stake in local regeneration’ but what they mean by that they decline to say. They also say they will ‘[e]nsure that each region in Wales has effective and democratically accountable means of developing their future economies with coordinated regional transport and land use planning’ but how this vision of the future differs from the current state of planning is unclear and there’s no mention of funding for communities to access.

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

Sort of – the Town Centre First approach belongs to the current Labour led administration and whilst there is no direct mention of it in the manifesto the context of office again demonstrates that this is a position a new Labour government would sustain. The masterplans for town centres mentioned above will involve arranging services in a way that means more people spend time in these ‘vibrant centres’. This might be more gentle progress than a ‘supercharged’ vision but the steps are in the right direction.

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

Hard to say – Welsh Labour show an understanding of the evolution of town and city centres when they say, ‘[a]s the role of retail and services in our towns and cities changes, we will ensure that they still thrive as centres of social exchange, public services, education, health, leisure, sport, and culture’ but the detail of what they’ll do to support these cultural institutions, and therefore the wider high street, is lacking.

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

Perhaps – it’s hard to cover this in a specific policy. Labour do mention the need to ensure high quality public spaces including green space and repurposing space for outdoor events which suggests free to access but it is not explicitly addressed.

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

Yes! As we said with Plaid  Cymru it would be a little odd for this to be missing from a Labour manifesto. The current Labour led administration recently took Transport for Wales into their own hands and plan to use this direct control to provide ‘new powers to better integrate rail, bus and active travel’. The focus on bus and active travel is a positive suggestion that this public transport vision focuses on local as well as inter-regional journeys as does the commitment to 45% of journeys being via sustainable models by 2040.

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