Cratus were out in force at this year’s Conservative Party Conference which proved to be a more convivial occasion than was the case in Manchester last year, although there was no hiding the big divide among delegates over Brexit and Theresa May’s Chequers plan. Things got close to boiling point on the first day when a man handing out ‘Chuck Chequers’ badges (allegedly provided by an ex-Cabinet minister) was physically confronted by another delegate. Divergent opinions over Chequers were also on display in fringe meetings, with Eurosceptics such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis and notably, Boris Johnson, invariably packing out their venues and receiving raucous applause.
Conference is often when parties like to reveal their direction of travel, along with some eye-catching new policies. On this occasion big announcements were a bit thin on the ground in Birmingham. This is perhaps to be expected, given the Conservatives have been in power for almost nine years and Brexit’s dominance of Government time. However, there were a few announcements that deserve mention.
Of particular interest for Cratus, as the agency of local government, the Prime Minister used her closing speech to announce that the Government will be removing the cap on how much local councils can borrow to build homes. This is something that local government has been calling for, for many years and was welcomed by council Leaders of all political parties. Councillor Gary Porter, Chairman of the LGA, tweeted in response to the announcement “when this kicks in, thousands of extra people will be living in safe, secure, decent, affordable homes.”
Importantly for the national picture, the Prime Minister also signaled an increase in public spending. In her speech she said that the years of austerity had paid off and that this policy of restraint would be replaced by an increase in spending on public services.
In other areas, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that after Brexit there will be a single immigration system based on skills, with no preference for people from the EU over elsewhere. Theresa May revealed that civil partnerships will be extended to opposite-sex couples, and that the Government will be banning businesses in the hospitality industry from taking a percentage of their workers tips.