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General Election 2024: a review of the main party manifestos from an economic development perspective


At every General Election, the IED has published a summary of the policy positions of the main Westminster political parties. The IED is a politically neutral organisation, and this summary simply sets out the key policy proposals. 

Last November the IED published its own manifesto, Grow Local, Grow National, and some of the calls for longer-term strategy, less competition for local funding and multi-year funding settlements for local authorities have been picked up in the final published documents. Economic development is a devolved matter for the Devolved Assemblies of the UK, and as a result, we have not set out the General Election manifestos of the nationalist parties. 

It is not straightforward to simply compare the manifestos as each are written with a different level of detail and cover topic areas in different ways. The Labour Manifesto is a reasonably detailed document with a number of policy proposals as might be expected from the main opposition party over the last decade. The Conservatives Manifesto is a shorter document and focuses as much on those existing policies where the Party wants to reinforce their position as on new policy ideas. The Liberal Democrat Manifesto is different again, with a large number of topic headings but bullet points of ideas under each section.


The Labour Party’s approach to economic development is rooted in strategy development. 

Their proposals include:

  • A National Industrial Strategy informed by an Industrial Strategy Council cascaded down to local areas with a return to the idea of Local Industrial Strategies. This will be aligned with further devolution and multi-year local government budgets.
  • The strategic approach will be sector based and the manifesto name checks port infrastructure, supply chains, gigafactories, the steel industry, carbon capture and green hydrogen.
  • The business rate system and planning policies are both highlighted as areas for reform – the former to support high streets against online activity and the latter to drive greater levels of housebuilding.

The manifesto is silent on recent developments in economic development, such as UKSPF, Freeports and Investment Zones, but the concept of re-balancing the economy geographically remains, albeit without reference to the terminology of ‘levelling up’.


The Conservative Party approach sets out ambitions for extensions of the current approach that has been implemented since the Levelling Up White Paper. 

Specifically, they highlight:

  • Extending the UK Shared Prosperity Fund into a new three-year period.
  • Expanding the Long Term Plan for Towns.
  • Maintaining the Community Ownership Fund, the focus on Freeports, and the Investment Zones.

The Conservatives Manifesto also references housebuilding but with a commitment to increasing residential density within cities and towns. In terms of specifically referenced sectors, their manifesto includes separate chapters on farming/fishing, rural economies and the creative industries.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats also favour the creation of a National Industrial Strategy. 

Their manifesto has several bullet points of ideas against 22 topic areas rather than an analysis of economic development and regional policy. 

The party does however, reference the ‘mega-areas’ of the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Western Gateway rather than making specific detailed comments about devolution and combined authorities.


It has been clear for some time that under either of the two main parties, the level of devolution and the importance of combined authorities will remain. 

It is also clear that given budgetary pressures, neither of the main parties is making large-scale commitments to expenditure on local government or regional policy. 

The key difference between the two main parties in the details of economic development is that the Conservative Party would deliver more of the Levelling Up-type interventions they have delivered to date, while the Labour Party is proposing an approach cascaded from a new Industrial Strategy into specific strategies for local areas. 

Whatever the outcome, the IED will be interpreting the new policy approaches of the new Government throughout the summer, and our Annual Conference (6th November at BMA House, London) will be the ideal time to discuss the new environment with colleagues.

Nigel Wilcock is Executive Director of the IED.