Policy Connect at Labour Party Conference
Last week, several members of the Policy Connect team attended Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.
Here they reflect on a busy few days at Conference, noting the valuable opportunity it provided to develop new and existing connections, better assess Labour’s plans for government, and learn of emerging policy ideas at exciting fringe events.
Katy Haigh (Senior Researcher, Sustainability)
I was delighted to have been able to attend this year's Labour party conference on behalf of Policy Connect and in my capacity managing the events and research programme for the APPG for Sustainable Resources, to find out more about Labour’s plans to support delivery of a low-carbon, circular economy in the UK which unlocks environmental, social and economic benefits for all citizens.
Energy security and Net Zero took centre stage in terms of formal announcements from Labour with regards to sustainability policy, with Shadow Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband pledging that GB Energy would invest £1 billion a year to develop local energy projects; that a Labour Government would deliver a warm homes plan to insulate 19 million homes; and pledging to double onshore wind, treble solar capacity, and quadruple offshore wind capacity.
Decarbonising the UK’s energy supply is a key action to achieving Net Zero and lessening our environmental impact in the face of the climate crisis. However, it is vital that there is a deeper understanding and provision for the circular economy and sustainable management of waste.
As such, highlights for me included:
A great panel session on the role of a circular economy in boosting jobs and growth in the UK. It was great to see APPG for Sustainable Resources' supporters Dr Adam Read, Suez, and Jacob Hayler, Environmental Services Agency, on this panel and speaking with enthusiasm and expertise on how the UK can make a circular economy a reality.
I also attended a fascinating panel event about the growing risk of plastic on Britain’s economy, and how the next Government should create a Plastics Strategy that goes beyond single-use; promoting innovative materials and reuse systems to unlock wide-ranging benefits for the UK.
It was a pleasure to catch up with old colleagues and make new connections and I am looking forward to exploring avenues for working together in future.
Jasmin Adebisi (Policy Manager, Health)
Health and care issues in the UK have been a topic of ongoing concern and discussion throughout conference. Whilst the National Health Service is a cherished institution, the healthcare system in the UK remains a critical and complex issue and topic of discussion amongst Labour leaders.
I was delighted to hear that Primary care will be at the heart of Labours plans for the NHS, this was also reflected in the many fringe and roundtable events I attended which focused on primary care services and creating a resilient NHS. Keir Starmer’s announcement of a sweeping new plan for addressing the NHS dentistry crisis was welcome news to those who have long been campaigning on this issue.
Moreover, placing a heightened focus on primary and community healthcare services holds the promise of detecting illnesses at an earlier stage and affording patients a broader array of choices, alleviating the burden on overcrowded hospitals.
The redirection of attention towards Primary care and community services has represented a longstanding political aspiration, yet the vision has struggled to materialize in practice. Fulfilling the promise to enhance community services will necessitate confronting complex challenges, such as providing better integration between services, improving outdated GP and community health buildings, improving access to primary care services and further funding into community services.
The Health team appreciates the increased emphasis on primary care. In the coming months, the Policy Connect health team will embark on an inquiry dedicated to examining primary care service accessibility, disparities in access, and strategies for enhancement. For more information about this inquiry and how you can get involved please do get in touch.
Dr. Peter Wilson (Senior Researcher, Education and Skills)
It was brilliant to represent the Education and Skills team at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. Despite a busy few days, it was an excellent opportunity to catch up with familiar faces and make many new connections from the skills sector.
Conference proved a particularly useful means to get up to date with Labour’s agenda for the different stages of an individuals’ involvement in education, training and employment – including Further Education, Higher Education, and employment rights.
It was great to gain these insights directly from shadow ministers at various fringe events. Personal highlights included hearing discussions from Bridget Phillipson and David Blunkett on Labour’s ideas for a ‘skills revolution’; Seema Malhotra on improving apprenticeship uptake for SMEs; Matt Western on improving students’ mental health; and Justin Madders on the party’s plans for workers’ rights and promoting good work. I also enjoyed engaging with and listening to the insightful contributions of the UK’s foremost union leaders and academics.
In coming weeks, I will be certain to further consider proposals I heard for holistic tertiary strategy, technical excellence colleges, apprenticeship levy reform and transfer schemes, maintenance grants, linking good work and productivity, and cross-sectoral collective bargaining.
Labour Party Conference was ultimately a superb occasion to develop new sector connections, better engage with Labour’s plans for education and skills, and evaluate the potential to conduct research on emerging policy ideas.