A Manifesto for England | Hywel Lloyd

While much of the Labour family is rightly occupied with their local election campaign for tomorrow, some of the early steps in preparing for ‘The English election’ of 2019 (elections in 192 District Councils, 47 Unitaries and 33 Mets on 2nd May ’19), began last week.

Labour:COAST&COUNTRY (LCC) brought together seven of our newer MPs for a policy dinner, along with a small group of coast & country stakeholders, kindly hosted by Baroness Jan Royall, and supported by Calor UK.

A wide ranging discussion highlighted many of the issues that non-urban CLPs also report to us at branch and whole CLP meetings, in whichever part of the country they reside, including the following examples:

  • The issues of education provision, the challenges of reduced provision in non-urban areas, the lack of choice and of access, and the consequences for opportunity and social mobility;
  • Of housing, and how some of the worst housing provision, and the greatest challenge of availability and affordability occurs in coast and country areas across the UK and England;
  • If you are poor outside of a city it is much harder to deal with, and less is available to support you and your family; with these services also being as decimated by austerity as urban public services;
  • And that in many parts of the UK there is now a dearth of transport that could be called ‘public service’ transport – no trains, and few buses . . .
  • The importance of understanding that many of these issues are about how the communities, of coast and country, can thrive, and are much the same, albeit with a different scale and density, as those facing urban communities that Labour more readily represents;
  • How to ensure funding for local services properly reflects need, and how services can be delivered to reflect local settings and circumstance;
  • And finally the wider question of representation – how does Labour properly engage with, and be seen to engage with, the whole of the UK, and England, so as to have a better chance of governing the whole of the nation.

Only with such a whole nation view, and a whole nation view of what’s fair, might we get near to addressing the fundamental causes of Brexit and the divides between remainers, and leavers; those from somewhere or anywhere, so as to be able to be the next government of the United Kingdom.  Which led us to consider where policy solutions might lie:

  • As one participant put it, key are polices that will lead to change which takes a whole nation view of fairness, balance and every child, and citizen mattering;
  • So we will need to think about funding for places and local government;
  • About procurement and how it works for communities;
  • About digitisation, when connectivity continues to be an issue;
  • And about how more local decision making can support local communities more effectively;
  • And how to be the community (re) investment party;
  • Building on the assets that communities have, as well as addressing the needs yet to be met

Labour stands at a cross roads – for the first time in a long time it has hundreds of members in every part of the country, in every constituency – they could be a platform for a Labour government that could run the country for the many, that recognised the issues facing communities of coast, country and city are often the same.

May 2019 would be the time to pick up this baton to run with a Manifesto for England; helping prove Labour’s national appeal across the many and varied places that make England what it is.

LCC will be developing these ideas for the shadow cabinet and colleagues to consider in the summer, as they start focusing on the challenge of May 2019.  If you and your CLP have examples of good ideas and delivery that address these issues, or others that affect coast or county communities, please do drop us a line at info@labourcoastandcountry.org.uk.

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Sustainable Villages: Rural Housing for the Future

Having lived for much of my life in the Forest of Dean, a glorious forest and a group of small communities between the Severn and the Wye, I’m all too aware of the problems, and in some cases the opportunities, that present themselves on the issue of rural housing.

As in most rural areas, we need quality affordable housing, especially social housing, so that those who grow up in the area can stay if they wish to, helping our communities to flourish. In debates on the recent Housing Act it was all too clear that the needs of rural areas were not properly understood or going to be addressed. Rural areas are not just a smaller version of urban communities; they have different strengths and different challenges.

The current system is creaking, if not failing to serve rural communities. Most experts and many Peers feel the Act will only make things worse, neither delivering more homes, nor homes that people can afford or want to have as part of their communities.  We need homes for people who live and work in our villages and small towns, who contribute to their daily life and well-being. The failure to provide these homes is fueling many of the challenges faced in rural areas with aging populations, the closure of schools, post offices, pubs and other hubs of village life.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Real localism should mean that local communities are part of the decision making and development process. Indeed when new housing and the future of a village, hamlet or town are considered with the community then often there is scope to develop a workable and consented plan or site development as local people can take ownership, metaphorically and often practically. With involvement and consent come houses that actually respond to local needs and fit the local setting – people and places aren’t and don’t have to be put upon.

All over the country we can see good practice that should be followed as a matter of course. I will highlight one example, a small village based development proposed by a local farmer in Eakring (in Newark & Sherwood). The development is being explored with the local community in a pre-application exhibition. That gives details of the farmer landowner, the local builder and local architect while setting out a subtle, sensitive development designed to sit low in the landscape, built to high sustainability and habitat standards in response to local need. It highlights the previous use of the site, having been used for farm worker accommodation up until the 1940s.

There are many other instances of a local landowner wanting to contribute to the success of a thriving village, in partnership with the community of the village.

The round table discussion that prompted this collection of essays highlighted some of the failings, and thankfully more of the solutions that could sustainably revive rural housing across the country. I commend them to you, as a package of ideas, examples and observations from participants across the rural housing ‘system’ – a builder, a councillor, a rural housing enabler, to a rural campaigner – with views encompassing east, west, north and south.

Together they help identify a route forward – that takes a long term view, that supports homes to rent as much as homes to own, that values engaging and involving existing communities in their development, that grows community led and based building, that locks in long term ownership, that values rural exemption sites, and taken together have the potential to help ensure sustainable villages to come – where communities would welcome new homes and there is the prospect of more homes not less.

Most people would assume that the Conservatives are the champions of rural communities, but I am proud of the crucial role that my Party has played and will continue to play. Housing is critical to the wellbeing of a community, to families and individuals – homes are not merely bricks and mortar, they provide people with security and dignity. Labour has always been the party to take housing need seriously.

I look forward to working with many others to ensure that those needs will be addressed following the passing of this Act; working with all the people and organisations that have contributed to this pamphlet, with landowners including perhaps the colleges of Oxbridge, and with other Peers, not least Lords Best and Cameron, to ensure a Labour led rural housing revolution and a Rural Housing Bill that really is fit for rural purpose.

Jan Royall – The Rt Hon., the Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Labour Peer

This blog is one of a number of essays prompted by Labour: COAST & COUNTRY’s Rural Housing programme; the full collection of essays will be published in the autumn.

The Country Tour – day one – Gloucestershire

A glorious spring day, sunny with a gentle breeze, and lots of opportunities to meet with activists across the county.

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First stop Coleford to meet party activists in the Forest of Dean, including Labour’s PPC Steven Parry-Hearn, Baroness Royall, numerous party members, and other local activists including Free Miners and members of HOOF – Hands Off Our Forest – who had been instrumental in saving the public forest from being sold off earlier in this parliament.

A rousing speech, a wide-ranging Q&A and an opportunity to start the tour with a restatement of Labour’s commitment to the public forest staying public!

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Onwards to Gloucester to meet Sophy Gardner our PPC there, together with her colleagues and comrades – and the perfect chance to promote Labour’s Animal Welfare manifesto with local Animal protection groups. Followed swiftly by a good canvassing session in the Matson area of the city.

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The sunny weather certainly prompted quite a few conversations with the eight of us – including an introduction to the work of the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust.

The Trust have entered into an innovative partnership with the Westmorland family (who run the Tebay Service station in The Lake District) to create the new north-bound services on the M5 between Junctions 12 and 11. We had the great pleasure of being shown round a service station which is a real flagship for local produce, local recruitment, training and staff development, and engagement with its community. It looks and feels as good as Tebay, and even has its own butcher!

We would recommend it to anyone (and south bound opens soon).

Wednesday, and we will be off to Worcester, and further afield in the West Midlands.

Hywel Lloyd is a Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Labour: Coast & Country.

Coast and Country at Conference

Please join Labour Coast and Country at our conference fringe event on Sunday 22nd September at 6.30pm

Title: Labour Coast and Country: How Labour can be a voice for non-urban Britain

Speakers:

  • Hywel Lloyd, (Chair) Labour Coast and Country
  • Angela Eagle MP, Chair of Labour’s National Policy Forum
  • Baroness Royall, Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
  • Sarah Owen, PPC for Hastings.

Venue:

Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF

No passes required and all are welcome.