UK Elections: Labour Leader Kier Starmer and colleagues at a rally. Credit: Shutterstock/Martin Suker

UK Elections: Labour landslide - but will it spell a deluge of water policy?

Energy & Climate Change, Management & Regulation

After the UK elections result, water will be a big issue for the new government despite the lack of manifesto detail

Headline policies were special measures, bonus bans and instant fines. With two weeks before recess expect quick action in Parliament- but how easy will these things be to implement? And water reform will need some careful consideration- an independent review and a holistic water strategy should follow further down the line.

Labour must bust the myth that growth and housing can’t be done in line with net zero and resilience

With water a limiting factor to housing delivery in more and more places there will be a strong desire to “bulldoze blockers”.

Planning reform has been pledged and those two feel worrying for the prospects of good quality and sustainable housing. They should not be impossible bedfellows. Will Labour implement schedule 3 of its Flood and Water Management Act 2010, so long-frustrated by the Tories? How green will Angela Raynor be? Water infrastructure like new reservoirs and transfers will undoubtedly be a target for faster faster delivery. RAPID on steroids?

What will the relationship with farmers be?

No more landed, farmer environment secretaries perhaps, but plenty of rural constituencies to keep on side. Will Labour be in hock to the farming lobby in the same way the Tories were? Fiscal responsibility and other public sector priorities may limit scope for bigger ambition on ELMS in England and with the green belt in the crosshairs, rural policy feels like a bit of an unknown.

Flood resilience task force - what does “completed on time” mean in practice?

Pitched as a COBRA-style unit, which ensures defences, drainage and natural measures are in shape each winter, will the focus mainly lie on incident response or does Labour have beefed-up delivery in mind? If nothing else it points to an awareness of the growing climate adaptation need facing the country.

Regulatory shake-up?

All eyes on Ofwat and the Environment Agency: Merge, abolish, reconfigure, re-fang? With the water industry draft determination due in the first week of the new government there may well be signals soon. And could the flood task force mean a move towards a separate flood agency to the environmental regulator?

Lib Dems and Greens will keep Labour honest

With major successes for both parties there will be strong voices for the environment on opposition benches. And with the Tories in turmoil and Reform not quite the force exit polls predicted, the net zero culture wars should be muted. But Labour can’t be complacent and from farming through to sewage and climate, the pressure should be on to how to improve things across the board.

Author: Alastair Chisholm, director of policy, CIWEM

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