Gallows humour is rife among moderate councillors at this week’s Labour Party Conference. But behind the pained expressions lies a real fear that the party’s lurch to the left could hamper the ability of Labour local authorities to deliver future development and work constructively with the property industry.
With Jeremy Corbyn returned with a strengthened mandate at the weekend – and his chancellor John McDonnell taking to the stage soon after to say how “the old rules of the economy are being rewritten” – this year’s conference is striking a divisive tone. As a result, many council leaders seeking to deliver homes, jobs and opportunity are finding more common cause with the property industry than with their own party leadership.
Property’s upper echelons are well represented in Liverpool, more reflecting a need to keep an open dialogue with Labour local authorities than an anticipation that they might persuade the national leadership of any shared ambition.
The British Property Federation fielded Land Securities chief executive Rob Noel and Crown Estate chief investment officer Paul Clark at its devolution-themed event on Monday morning. With Legal & General supporting a number of fringe sessions, head of real assets Bill Hughes is also in town to make the case for investment in real estate and infrastructure.
And at a Mishcon de Reya dinner on Monday night a group of London borough leaders – including Southwark’s Peter John, Haringey’s Claire Kober and Barking & Dagenham’s Darren Rodwell – discussed effective working with developers and investors – with L&G’s Hughes, Essential Living’s Daryl Flay, First Base’s Elliot Lipton and CapCo’s Anette Simpson among their number.
For this group at least, aspirations were largely shared, similar solutions proposed and a recognition that for many big urban conurbations – Labour’s local authority heartland – joint working between the public and private sectors is about to become harder.
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