Leader of the Green party responds to Building’s manifesto aims
As part of Building’s Agenda 15 campaign to persuade politicians to adopt policies that will help construction to help the UK economy, Building has put our manifesto aims to the main Westminster parties and given each party leader the opportunity to respond, in an open letter to Building’s readers. Here, we hear from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
Our infrastructure and built environment are not fit for a common and sustainable life. Our railways and housing are overcrowded and overpriced. Our built environment is too energy inefficient, and poorly adapted to cope with our changing climate.
The Green Party places prime importance on addressing these challenges.
We propose a Green National Infrastructure Programme, with a huge direct investment of public money. Timid governments have under-invested for too long, in the process undermining the confidence of private sector investors. It has also made work in this sector too vulnerable to economic cycles, creating a churn in jobs that undermines the skills agenda, and further reducing private sector confidence and investment in projects that span several economic cycles.
Here are some of our big ticket items for investment:
We would increase government investment in affordable housing by £20bn to get back to building 100,000 social rented homes a year. This pays for itself in the long term, through rental income, tax revenues from the construction work, and savings to the benefit and health bills. But it is funded for the next five years by scrapping generous tax breaks for private landlords’ mortgages.
Greens will invest £85bn in a comprehensive climate change mitigation and adaptation programme. That means insulating and refurbishing 9 million homes, adapting our built environment and countryside to avoid overheating and flooding, and increasing renewable energy generation and the capacity of the grid to cope. We will not continue with half-baked schemes while countries like Germany revolutionise their energy systems, leaving our energy sector and the wider economy at a growing competitive disadvantage.
We will also take a different approach to the railways and roads. Spending huge sums on projects like HS2 and major road expansion simply entrenches the economic dominance of major cities and increases traffic. We will redirect that money towards many more, smaller projects to improve connections between cities and towns, to make our roads safe and pleasant for walking and cycling, and to reduce public transport fares by 10%.
Ours is a very different vision for transport, dropping the flawed predict-and-provide mentality and instead integrating transport policy with health (to promote active travel), the environment (to reduce traffic) and the economy (to spread prosperity and jobs more evenly around the UK).
Projects of national importance, and services used by the whole public, should not be put into the hands of private monopolies or unaccountable quangos. We would not cede decision making to an unelected commission. Quite the reverse. We would bring the train companies and parts of the national energy infrastructure into public ownership, and within the parameters set out above seek to devolve to and empower local government to build, maintain and run this infrastructure where appropriate. The work of Armitt, Davies and others should inform government, but not tie our hands.
The Green Party is different to most other parties. We know that to take real action on climate change, and to achieve a more equal society, infrastructure and buildings must be top priorities, integrated into the way we approach all areas of policy. If you share our desire to transform our country to be environmentally sustainable and more equal, and want to see these policies given the profile and importance they deserve, then vote for the Green Party.
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party