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The impact of a new government on British councils

The general election has promised a surprising amount of change this time around, with most of the parties keen to court voters on core issues of devolution and local government. But how will the new government look based on the policies of the major political parties?

Devolving powerDukes-NewGov

All the major parties have a commitment of one kind or another to devolving greater power.

The Conservative Party manifesto is focused on delivering power to large cities that choose to have elected mayors, including over "economic development, transport and social care" – a pilot scheme allowing Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire East to keep 100% of business rate growth.

Labour share similar ideas for devolved power and business rates, but promise an English Devolution Act transferring £30bn to city and country regions. They also propose councils be given the right to curate High Streets by refusing planning permission to undesirable businesses.

Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, champion Devolution on Demand, a piecemeal approach enabling councils to dictate the rate at which they adopt devolved powers.

Practical changes

Conservatives are promising a minimum 10% stake in public sector land sales, and, along with Labour, they encourage voluntary services integration of the type introduced by Buckinghamshire and Surrey councils as a cost-saving exercise.

In terms of direct funding, Labour also promise a higher council tax on long-term unoccupied homes, while the Lib Dems suggest councils use crowdfunding and alternative finance models.

Accountability

The Conservatives and Labour both promise more direct democracy. While the Tories specifically promise residents the right to veto high council tax rises, Labour's English New Deal is more specific about the NHS. Their manifesto states that it will give the local public "a seat at the table" for any proposed changes. Labour also advocate the integration of online feedback services.

The Lib Dems, in contrast, are more focused on empowering communities to take on services themselves. Particular emphasis is placed on parish councils and tenant councils in social housing, and on communities being given the right to take over services like libraries rather than see them being cut.

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