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Delib Disclaimer: Delib maintains a strict policy of political neutrality and does not endorse or support any political party or candidate. Our role is to provide objective and unbiased consultation services, ensuring that all voices are heard regardless of political affiliation. This article aims to inform and provide an overview of how the upcoming UK general election might impact public consultation processes, without favouring any particular party or political viewpoint.

Election season is here, and regardless of who gets the keys to Number 10, one thing is clear: councils must be prepared for incoming changes to the public consultation process.

This should come as no surprise. The past few decades have brought a sea change in  consultation — with regular folks now playing a major role in areas like planning policy, local service delivery, and environmental protection schemes.

Those are 3 examples, but the list really does go on, and it’s not stopping any time soon. As more and more figures in government recognise the value in public consultations, every party wants to see their use rolled out at a greater scale across the country. The big question is how and where these changes will come.

In this article, we’ll summarise the positions of the major political party’s 2024 election manifestos, and what it might mean for your consultation process in the months and years ahead.

Potential Changes to the Consultation Process if The Labour Party Wins The 2024 Election

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Labour’s 2024 election manifesto seems to be big on the idea of democratic pluralism. They promise a “landmark devolution legislation” to transfer power out of Westminster and into towns, cities, and regions across the UK.

Combined Authorities and Mayoral systems would see their devolution powers extended, especially where they show “exemplary management of public money”. Councils, on the other hand, would be encouraged to work with neighbouring authorities to produce joined-up regional schemes, along with receiving multi-year funding settlements for infrastructure development.

In terms of the day-to-day, Labour would introduce “a new statutory requirement for Local Growth Plans”. Councils would need to collaborate with employers, universities, and industry bodies to a) identify growth sectors, and b) co-create programmes to promote their growth. Essentially, it proposes making public consultation in local economic policy a legal obligation.

In planning policy — an area where the public consultation process is significant — Labour suggests further reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This could mean local authorities will be required to review their existing plans for land use, such as housing design codes.

Labour also proposes several government consultations on major topics like zero hours contracts, apprenticeships, social care reform, and the role of the House of Lords. Although these engagements are likely to be run primarily by the Cabinet Office rather than local authorities, it nevertheless signals a willingness to promote the role of stakeholders in policy making and the consultation process.

If The Conservative Party Wins… 

By Conservative Party (UK) –, Public Domain,

The Conservative’s 2024 election manifesto, written by the current party of government, is arguably narrower in how they intend to rework the local decision-making and consultation process. However, there are a few key areas where change is proposed.

In planning policy, the Conservative manifesto talks a lot about the apparent benefits of the recent updates to the NPPF in December 2023. They highlight how these reforms will translate into real changes for councils and their residents — such as prioritising prime agricultural land for food production, loosening restrictions on solar in residential areas, and ensuring “democratic consent” for onshore wind farms.

In terms of what’s next, they want to create a “fast-track route” for new homes on previously developed land (AKA brownfield sites), and to extend “full expensing” for developers to reduce their tax liability. The ambition is clearly to rapidly accelerate housebuilding, which would invariably lead to more local consultations, even if the fast-track route is pursued. Additionally, they intend to ask councils to “set land aside” for local and smaller builders, as well as lift section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for these sites. This could mean fewer local consultations in certain cases.

The Conservatives promise to make the planning process simpler and faster. To achieve this, they suggest reducing the powers of statutory consultees (such as Natural England or the Environment Agency) to intervene during the planning permission phase. Key to their proposals is the principle of proportionality, and they want to introduce clearer objectives for arms-length bodies to follow.

The Tories also propose government consultations on issues like defence and civilian planning, nuclear energy, prison building, and internet safety. Again, these are likely to be initiated by Westminster, although they will likely involve consultation with local authorities and residents.

The Liberal Democrats Will Prioritise Housing Targets

By, Fair use,

As the UK’s traditional ‘third choice party’, it’s possible that the Lib Dems will form the next government as junior partners in a coalition arrangement. If this is the case, we may see policy from the Lib Dem’s 2024 election manifesto in the next King’s Speech…

The Lib Dems have the most ambitious housing target of any major party, promising 380,000 new homes a year across the UK. To achieve this, they promise a “community-led development” system with expanded Neighbourhood Planning powers and increased funding for local planning departments. Together, these reforms would likely see a large expansion of local consultation initiatives.

Planning laws on rural development would be loosened with “rural exception sites”, opening the door to consultations on where the most appropriate locations would be. Meanwhile, it would become tougher for developers to build on areas of high flood risk, meaning fewer planning applications (and consultations) in certain areas. A trial of Community Land Auctions would see local residents asked how they would like to see their fair share of the benefits of new development. 

On the issue of energy generation, the Lib Dems want local authorities to take a front seat role. Councils would be empowered to build “local renewable electricity generation and storage”, with community benefit funds to spread the wealth created by such infrastructure. The selection of these sites and application of the community funds would likely require extensive local consultation.

As for the natural environment, the Lib Dems would introduce a “blue corridor” and strengthen the powers of local authorities to monitor water health. This could perhaps pave the way for an expanded citizen science programme, especially given the promise for community groups to be given places on water companies’ boards. Likewise, a “wild belt” would be created through Local Nature Recovery Strategies, suggesting expanded public consultation on environmental concerns.

Finally, the Lib Dems want to increase transparency and accountability as to how money is spent through local authorities. This could mean reform of the current Consultation Principles, with a heavier emphasis on regular financial reporting and breakdowns of costs.

The Green Party Will Focus On Environmental Consultations

By, Fair use,

It’s no surprise that the Green’s 2024 election manifesto places a big emphasis on the natural world. They want to reduce the environmental impact of human land use, with vast new powers for local authorities to oversee this process. Each council would be pushed to create a “land use planning policy framework”, and to exercise a “place-shaping role” within their communities.

To achieve this, the Greens envision a “a local-authority led, street-by-street or area-based retrofit programme to insulate our homes”. This hints at a greater degree of community planning than the ‘Street vote’ model in the existing NPPF. However, they are committed to protecting the Green Belt in its current state, which means tighter rules and likely fewer consultations regarding development on this type of land.

As part of their ‘Right Homes’ charter, the Greens propose a Passivhaus standard for all new houses. This means the bar would be much higher within construction, even if local residents or community groups supported, for example, the building of a housing estate. Demolitions would also require a “full planning application” and councils would have the ability “to bring empty homes back into use”. These powers would require stringent new local consultation processes.

The Green manifesto suggests that local authorities should encourage “cultural life” — outlining discretionary powers on exempting businesses from paying VAT or business rates. This process would likely require consultation with residents to decide which enterprises reach the standard of “socially and economically essential”.

Finally, the Greens will support the Senedd and the Scottish Parliament if either decide to hold an independence referendum — which would effectively be public consultations on a huge constitutional question for the United Kingdom. 

The Reform Party Want Sweeping Changes

By Reform UK –, Public Domain,

As their name suggests, Reform UK’s 2024 election manifesto is calling for big change to almost every policy area in the country. However, the bulk of their proposals would take the form of top-down legislation initiated from Westminster — and particularly relating to issues like immigration, sovereignty, culture, and sweeping economic/political reforms.

That said, there are some manifesto pledges that relate to the powers of local authorities, giving us clues into what the consultation process could look like should Reform UK enter government. For starters, they intend to simplify the social care system through a “single funding stream”, instead of the current split between NHS and Local Authorities. Considering social care accounts for 65% of local authority spending, this could mean a big shakeup to how consultations are run, depending on how their scheme is introduced.

In terms of planning, Reform UK promises to fast-track “new housing on brownfield sites” and “infrastructure projects”, which may mean consultations are less applicable or have shorter timeframes. They also propose a “loose fit planning” policy for residential developments with pre-approved guidelines, which would seem to put speed at the heart of the consultation process.

The SNP Want Devolved Control of Planning 

By Scottish National Party –, Public Domain,

The Scottish National Party leads a minority government in the Scottish Parliament and are running candidates in all 57 Scottish seats at this general election. Although it’s impossible for them to form a majority in the Westminster Parliament, they still have significant sway over devolved matters — like the economy, housing, transport, health and social care, etc — and could potentially be kingmakers in a national coalition.

As expected, the SNP’s 2024 election manifesto pertains mostly to Scottish issues with an emphasis on achieving further devolution of powers, and an eye to an eventual second independence referendum. One such area the SNP highlights is the lack of devolution within the current planning system. They want more powers to shape development, and presumably consultation, in Scotland.

As for what their approach to consultation may look like, there are clues to be found in the SNP’s Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, notably:

  • Community Planning (Part 2): Each local authority has a Community Planning Partnership (CPP) that must produce ‘local outcomes improvement plans’ and even more targeted ‘locality plans’. They have a legal obligation to work extensively with community bodies throughout the design and delivery of plans, including regular progress reviews.
  • Participation Requests (Part 3): Community bodies may unilaterally request participation in the consultation process, which CPPs must agree to unless there are reasonable grounds to refuse.
  • Asset Transfer Requests (Part 5): Community bodies may request ownership or use of public assets, which CPPs must address publicly and transparently.

So, if the SNP were to form part of government and achieve their devolution priorities, it’s likely that we’d see an extension of these community consultation principles into other areas of local decision-making.

Plaid Cymru Will Prioritise Changes To Healthcare Consultations

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Plaid Cymru, the self-titled Party of Wales, are running in every Welsh constituency at this general election. Similarly to the SNP’s position, the Plaid Cymru 2024 election manifesto advocates for increased devolution to the Welsh Parliament, although they have explicitly ruled out a date for a proposed independence referendum. Additionally, unlike their Scottish counterparts, they are not the party of government in the Senedd.

In terms of the consultation process, Plaid Cymru is calling for several reforms to the planning system in Wales. Firstly, they want to ensure Local Development Plans are not imposed on councils without their support. This signals they would afford more discretionary powers for local authorities in setting their infrastructure priorities, economic strategies, and approach to historic/natural conservation. Each local authority would likely consult with residents on these topics, although there is no mention of a legal obligation to do so.  

Secondly, they identify a problem in the Welsh housing market that new developments are too focused on building “executive homes for profit”. Their proposal is to launch “strategic planning at national, regional, and local levels” to align land use with community needs and service availability. This would certainly require further local consultations than under the current system.

In other areas, Plaid Cymru is promising to hold consultations with stakeholders, including trade unions, on any new reforms to health and social care. For instance, they propose a National Care Service for Wales to merge these two services, and want to hear from everyone about how to eliminate profit in children’s services provisions. Likewise, they want an independent review of drug policy and policing, which would invariably include consultation with the public and scientific bodies.  

Consultation principles in the rest of the UK

Note that the devolved governments of the UK have the authority to set the guidelines for how local authorities within their jurisdictions should consult with the public and stakeholders. Some of the most relevant ones you need to know about are:

How to Encourage New Stakeholder Engagement


In the build-up to the 2024 election, local authorities are still expected to proceed with their policy consultation efforts, albeit taking a more cautious approach than during non-election times. This is because the consultation principles are observed to a much stricter standard by the media, public, and temporarily-appointed Monitoring Officers.

It’s incredibly important that councils don’t overstep their consultations and wade into political issues that could influence voters during this sensitive period. For starters, it’s illegal. And this doesn’t just mean expensive court cases, it could also open a Pandora’s box of negative media attention and undermine public faith in your future consultations.

For now, our best advice is to continue crafting meaningful, human-centred consultations on the non-controversial issues in your local areas. As for major policy initiatives, it may be a wise idea to put these on hold until after the election concludes. If you’re ever in doubt, ask your Monitoring Officer for help, or refer to the Local Government Association’s guide to publicity during the pre-election period.

Changing Consultations in Line with New Public Policy


Looking ahead, what could public consultation look like after the 2024 election?

Well, none of the major political parties intend to rip out the existing consultation principles that are now entrenched in our legal system. However, it does seem likely that the application of these rules may be strengthened or weakened in specific areas, as proposed by the parties.

For instance, Labour intends to expand the powers and responsibilities afforded to councils and combined authorities, which can only mean more consultations at the local level. On the other hand, the Conservatives look to reduce the role of statutory consultees in planning policy, as well as loosen planning restrictions for small builders — examples where the consultation process could be scaled back. That said, both parties by and large give a green light to the use of stakeholder engagement in policymaking, especially at the national level.

So, as we sit tight and wait for the British electorate to vote on their future, it’s a great time for councils to consider their current consultation process. Are your ongoing consultations engaging citizens effectively? Is your council achieving best value in service delivery? And how can you encourage better engagement and enriched stakeholder feedback?

These are big questions because, regardless of who comes to power, local authorities face tough financial decisions in the years ahead. Against the backdrop of a housing crisis and more stringent sustainability standards, councils need to think shrewdly about how to spend their dwindling local budgets to deliver the best possible services for their constituents.