After the local elections, Keir Starmer looks certain to be our next prime minister, but where are the details beyond the aspiration to ‘get Britain building’?

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I was in Scotland when the extent of Labour’s gains at the local elections became clear. North of the border there were no election results to pore over so it was largely seen as a non-event. Listening to the local news the conversations were dominated by John Swinney taking over as first minister; still, it didn’t take long to tune back into all the speculation about what the latest verdicts at the polls down South might mean for a general election later this year.

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Politics is a central theme of this week’s print and digital edition as we publish some of the industry views we have been gathering as part of our election focus this year. Simon Rawlinson’s column sets up the contention that while we can now be far more certain of a Labour administration, we have little real information about what that will mean in terms of public sector work coming through the pipeline.

As Rawlinson points out, the Labour leadership has made encouraging noises about ambitious targets for housebuilding, planning reform and green investment but is saying as little as possible about the spending commitments that will be needed to actually achieve them.

Tactically you can understand why this is a prudent approach. For an industry that is trying to plan for the future, however, it is frustrating. We pretty much know which party will be in power by the end of the year but businesses have limited visibility of future opportunities.

This industry is brimming with ideas that could improve construction’s prospects under the next government

More encouraging though is the fact that this industry is brimming with ideas that could improve construction’s prospects under the next government. The procurement group Scape, for example, has recently launched its Charter for Change. In an interview, group chief executive Mark Robinson explains why the charter is calling for, among other things, more devolved power and funding to local authorities and public-private sector secondments to encourage knowledge sharing.

Meanwhile, Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, thinks Labour has shown more interest in big business than in SMEs. When it comes to retrofitting homes, which is potentially a big market for SMEs, he has some specific questions for our next leaders: “What are the standards they’re going to use? Are they going to use the PAS2030 standard? How are they going to get the workforce up to speed in that time?”

Berry’s point is that the details matter, and politicians can get a better handle on the detail if they consult with businesses, of all shapes and sizes. The ultimate success of Labour’s pledge to “get Britain building” – this seems obvious but needs saying – will ultimately rely on the construction industry’s ability to deliver. Meaningful engagement with all sections of the supply chain on the next steps should be happening now.

More generally on energy efficiency and climate policies, Philippa Spence, Ramboll’s UK managing director, talks to us about disappointing flip-flopping from both main political parties. Rishi Sunak’s watering down of many carbon-cutting targets directly hit some of the work Ramboll was targeting around green innovation. And Keir Starmer’s U-turn on his pledge to invest £28bn a year in green initiatives sent a “bad signal” to industry. For Spence, construction could be “a green transition superstar”; it just needs politicians who can see the opportunities in front of them.

But arguably the housing crisis is the industry issue that has shot up the political agenda more than any other this year. After the Tories abandoned mandatory targets for local authorities, Labour has seen an opportunity to present itself as the party of housebuilding by backing local targets, saying it will build 1.5 million homes in the next parliament – including 150,000 social and affordable homes a year – and announcing a new towns plan.

Again, we know what Labour wants to do, we just have few clues as to how. So to explore specific ideas that would help ramp up housing supply we have launched a new podcast series called Home Truths, co-hosted by Jackie Sadek and Peter Bill, which you can listen to on our website and on podcast platforms.

Our first episode was an interview with Homes England chair Peter Freeman in which he talks about the various ways the agency intervenes to provide funding where there is market failure. As he explains, the agency does not actually build any homes, instead it receives funds from central government and makes lending and investment decisions that can unlock otherwise unviable sites. Freeman is particularly interesting on reforming the planning system to promote more build to rent homes on major schemes, which he believes would get built out quicker than schemes just for private sale and speed up wider regeneration efforts.

Another podcast guest who has planning in her sights is Taylor Wimpey CEO Jennie Daly who appears in this week’s episode. A planner by background, she is pretty scathing about the state of the planning system. In her words it is broken and “getting worse by the day”. And the damage she says is inflicted not just on housebuilders’ productivity but on most other sectors of the economy.

We have more housing experts lined up for our podcast in the coming weeks – all with their own radical ideas, let’s hope Labour will follow their lead.

Chloë McCulloch is the editor of Building



The next episode of Home Truths will be available to download on Tuesday 21 May.

Home Truths is a Building Talks series in association with Building and Housing Today. Episodes will be released every Tuesday on our websites and will be available via the main podcast providers such as Spotify and Apple.