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What’s Onward This Week

It’s manifesto week. The combined offerings from the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems come to 333 pages, with hundreds of pledges and commitments. The majority of media scrutiny has been reserved for the three tables of costings that underpin the documents – with all making some heroic assumptions about public finances in the coming Parliament.

A number of Onward’s recommendations and reports have been reflected in the manifestos. Here are our top picks:

Steps to dramatically increase the number of apprenticeships. In Course Correction and Off Course we argued for increased investment in apprenticeships and reforms to open up technical routes to more school leavers. The Conservative manifesto commits to an additional 100,000 high-quality apprenticeships for young people.

Action to tackle antisocial behaviour. In Levelling Up Locally we highlighted the importance of low-level crime to people’s sense of pride in their local areas. In Back to Basics we set out a plan to renew community policing. The Labour manifesto has committed to introducing a Community Policing Guarantee and tackling anti-social behaviour, the Conservative manifesto committed to roll out hot spot policing and recruit thousands of additional officers, while the Liberal Democrats manifesto committed to improving visible police presences in communities across the UK.

A modern form of national service. In Great British National Service we argued that a modern, opt-out form of national service could help young people build skills, improve their mental health and forge relationships with their peers across the country. The Conservative manifesto includes mandatory National Service for all school leavers at 18 with a choice between civic and military service.

Empower mayors to grow regional economies. In Give Back Control we argued for more mayoral devolution deals and deeper powers for existing mayors, including Single Mayoral Settlements that bring together funding streams. The Labour manifesto committed to deepen devolution settlements for existing Combined Authorities and create opportunities for other local authorities to take on powers. The Conservatives promise a devolution deal for any part of England that wants one by 2030 and offered enhanced powers to areas with existing devolution deals.

A British Library for Data to unlock AI-driven breakthroughs. In Future Frontiers we argued for a single national resource to pool data sets held by public services such as the NHS, to support scientists and startups building the next wave of foundation models. The Labour manifesto has committed to a National Data Library which would bring together research programmes and help deliver data-driven public services.

Streamline planning for farm infrastructure to clean rivers and enhance food security. In Greener Pastures we highlighted that a lack of slurry storage is causing river pollution and that too few farms have reservoirs to help combat extreme weather. The Conservative manifesto committed to planning reform to fast track permissions for farm infrastructure, including slurry stores and small-scale reservoirs.

Unblock green infrastructure with community benefit programmes. In Power to the People we argued that renewable energy and transmission line projects should come with mandatory benefits for local people. The Conservative manifesto highlighted that its planning policy updates aim for local areas hosting onshore wind to benefit, such as through energy bill discounts. And the Labour manifesto committed to ensure local communities directly benefit from developments.

    📰 Media Mentions

    The Independent reported on Labour’s pledge to reform the apprenticeship levy and included Onward’s warning that the proposed changes would cause a further decline in the number of apprenticeship starts.

    Head of New Deal for Parents Phoebe Arslanagić-Little set out what a generous offer to parents would look like in ConservativeHome, arguing for a child tax allowance, better access for fertility assistance and new employment rights to support families. 

    City A.M. covered Onward’s idea of a British data library which has been supported by Labour, a number of business groups and MPs.

    Director Sebastian Payne wrote for i that the boringness of this campaign reflects a worrying popular disengagement from politics and is obscuring some big problems Labour will have to face once in office.

    🌐 Onward Online

    Senior Researcher Callum Newton looked at how support for the Liberal Democrats and Reform is aligning on class lines.

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