Reading between the lines of the Chancellor’s summer statement: Five items to consider for political and community engagement

In a recent article we highlighted that, despite the headline reporting of the stamp duty holiday, there were other takeaways from the Chancellor’s summer statement.

In this follow up article we are going to identify the five implications these takeaways have for political and community engagement, and our advice for how you can implement them as part of your strategy.

1)    The importance of a strong construction team to give local authorities certainty

As we mentioned previously, the government’s Construction Talent Retention Scheme will support the redeployment of workers at risk of redundancy.

To launch this fund, it is likely that the government will have seen some movement within the construction industry that indicated lots of job losses at the end of the furlough scheme because of the closure of sites and the delays this caused to projects.

When it comes to your engagement strategy, therefore, if you can show that your construction teams are still in good shape then it will provide certainty for the local authority that you can still deliver your plans within a good timeframe.

2)    Reaffirming the importance of consulting on affordable housing:

The confirmation of the £12.2 billion Affordable Homes Programme reaffirms the importance of engaging with communities and local authorities on the number of affordable homes in your projects.

While it might be a usual part of your engagement strategy, the government’s increased financial backing to the cause will make this even more important on a local level.

3)    Highlighting innovative approaches to housebuilding:

The government’s announcement that a proportion of the extended Short-Term Home Building Fund will be reserved for firms using innovative approaches to housebuilding, gives an idea about where government policy may be leading on this.

Over the coming years, for example, it may become the norm for the planning process to favour certain types of innovative construction more, so the earlier you can test and embed these within your projects and applications the better.

For the short-to-medium term then, we would recommend consistently highlighting any innovative approaches that you will be implementing following any successful application.

4)    The importance of engaging with key stakeholders where possible:

The announcement that the government will provide a further £200 million for the Health Infrastructure Plan, highlights how important healthcare provision is to local communities.

When it comes to your engagement strategy then, we recommend that you seek to carry out research and engage with key stakeholders to understand where hospitals are being upgraded or built. This will allow you to plan your developments with this in mind, and to highlight these amenities within your applications.

Furthermore, by taking a longer-term approach to political engagement you provide yourself with a good opportunity to know where future infrastructure is being planned.

5)    Highlighting the importance of engaging with all levels of government:

Too often we hear that developers and consultants have sought to engage with only a select number of relevant councillors, community groups and key stakeholders.

Now we may also need to consistently engage with the Mayoral Combined Authorities too.

The Chancellor’s announcements about the £400 million Brownfield Housing Fund, and the £900 million fund for local infrastructure projects, raised the question of whether there may be more devolution planned over the coming months and years.

The Brownfield Housing Fund will allocate £400 million to seven Mayoral Combined Authorities, despite them not currently having planning powers.

Likewise, the fund for local infrastructure projects will be provided to the Mayoral Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

These two announcements will raise two questions:

1)    Are there plans for Mayoral Combined Authorities to have more powers, including planning powers, in future?

2)    Are there plans to create additional combined authorities?

The government has previously mooted the idea of a zonal approach, and if this were to become a widespread plan it would, in all likelihood, need a sub-regional spatial strategy, which would probably take the form of the combined authorities.

Skyline Comms have sought to engage the combined authorities since their inception- in fact we even hosted an event with the Mayor for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority last year.

We will be watching to see how these combined authorities progress over the coming months and years.

The Skyline Comms team offers political insights at all levels of government, as well as political and community engagement to support applications through the planning process.

To find out how we could support your political and community campaigns during this challenging time, please email our Managing Director James Hockney on or call 07958 389713.