What are the political parties saying about skills and capacity?

Written byAlex Govier
18 June 2024

Over the past weeks, we have been waiting with bated breath to see what each of the main parties promises regarding the future of local government, mainly how they will boost skills and capacity in planning and placemaking teams.

We’re sure that everyone reading this will know and have their own experience of the challenges local government officers face regarding recruitment and retention in planning and place teams. Almost 80% of our 2023 Recruitment and Skills Survey respondents said that attracting appropriately skilled and qualified candidates was their primary barrier to recruitment.

Now that most of the parties have released their manifestos, we decided to delve into their promises and policies to share their plans for boosting skills and capacity in the sector. This article is not here to endorse any of the parties’ policies but to simply present what they are saying to you objectively and clearly.


The Conservative Party manifesto does not specify any new funding commitments to boost capacity in the sector beyond existing commitments, such as the Planning Skills Delivery Fund launched in 2023. However, the planning system is featured extensively, with promises to continue simplifying it to speed up consents, reduce challenges, and deliver infrastructure faster.

The Conservative manifesto does not announce any further large-scale reform of the planning system beyond the NPPF, although it promises to create a fast-track route for new housing on previously developed land. The focus on good-quality design and the continued rollout of design codes remains unchanged.

Green Party

The Green Party manifesto mentions planning resource and states, 'Local authorities need to be given the resources to act as guardians of the land and the built environment. They need to be able to exercise a place-making and place-shaping role.’

However, there are no specific funding commitments regarding skills and capacity beyond a call for a £5bn annual increase in Local Authority funding. Planning reform is a key theme for the Greens, with a particular focus on decarbonising development and protecting greenfield sites.


The Labour Party has pledged to recruit 300 new planners by increasing stamp duty by 1% on purchases of residential properties by non-UK residents. Their pledges can be found in a section of their manifesto titled ‘Get Britain Building Again’, which states: ‘Labour will support local authorities by funding additional planning officers, through increasing the rate of the stamp duty surcharge paid by non-UK residents.’

Labour estimates that this limited stamp duty increase will generate £40M, of which £20M will be spent on recruiting new planning officers. Labour also focuses on large-scale reform of the planning system, introducing multi-year financial settlements for Local Government and ending competitive bidding for funding.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat manifesto promises to ‘properly fund local planning departments to improve planning outcomes’. This increase in funding for planning departments is seen as a core plank of delivering their pledge to build 380,000 homes a year.

While no number is placed on this funding, the Lib Dems promise to provide Local Authorities with multi-year funding settlements and allow Councils to set their planning fees to ensure planning departments are properly resourced.

Reform UK

Reform UK’s manifesto, referred to as its ‘Contract with You’ states that it will review the planning system within the first 100 days to fast-track planning and tax incentives for development on brownfield sites. They pledge a ‘loose fit planning’ policy for large residential developments with preapproved guidelines and developer requirements.

They particularly emphasise reforming planning to support regeneration in coastal areas, Wales, the North and the Midlands. Reform UK does not include a specific funding pledge for either planning and place departments or wider Local Government in its manifesto.

*This graphic was collated by using the ‘command F’ function to search for the selected keywords. While we have done our utmost to ensure that these figures are accurate, words such as design and sustainability are used in multiple contexts. As such, we counted each of their mentions that were relevant to our sector.

All of the parties whose commitments we have looked at here acknowledge that issues within the planning system and wider Local Government sector need to be addressed. However, some place more emphasis on skills and capacity than others.

At Public Practice, we believe that Local Government's role is crucial in creating and managing everyday places that work for everyone. It must be well-resourced with diverse placemaking skills and the right support to lead the way.

In the manifestos, we searched for the keywords planning, housing, design, sustainability, and local government to better understand each party's priorities. Unsurprisingly, housing and planning were frequently mentioned, along with Local Government, hopefully showing an awareness across the political spectrum of the fundamental need for well-planned places with quality housing for communities across the country.

While we can only wait and see whether any of these promises will materialise, whoever forms the Government on July 5 will undoubtedly have a lot of work to do to build the public sector's capability to improve the quality, equality and sustainability of places.

Written by

Alex Govier

Partnership Manager

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