Government and Parliament
There are a number of different ways in which RIBA regional offices, local branches and individual members can engage with MPs:
The general election has brought with it a new political landscape: the end of 13 years of Labour government; the first coalition government for 65 years; and a new parliament with an unusually large number of new MPs (233). These developments bring huge challenges for organisations seeking to influence government and the wider political debate, but also real opportunities to build and strengthen relationships and to build support for new approaches.
The new coalition Government has been formed with many areas of agreement and some disagreement. There are Liberal Democrat Ministers in most Departments with 5 senior Liberal Democrat positions including Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister.
Policy and legislation
The legislative programme for the first parliamentary session will run through to November 2011. The Bills of most relevance are:
Decentralisation and Localism Bill to devolve greater powers to councils and local communities
Energy Bill to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses and promote low carbon energy production
Public Bodies (Reform) Bill to reduce the number of arms length bodies
Academies Bill to allow new providers to start and run state schools and to increase the number of academies.
The government has also announced £6 billion of spending cuts. This is the initial programme of cuts for 2010, but there will be much more significant cuts announced in the coming months, through the Emergency Budget in June and the Comprehensive Spending Review, which ill set out the budgets of government departments for a three year period (2011-2014).
The potential fragility of coalition government and the fine margins by which votes may be passed means that parliament will play a much greater role in determining the success of government business. The government may not be able to force through its business without real and meaningful consultation of MPs. MPs in the new parliament will therefore become more important.
The manifesto contains three simple themes:
Greening our buildings
4 million homes to be retrofitted within the lifetime of the next Parliament.
The introduction of smart energy meters in every building and the publication of carbon bills by energy companies.
Better schools, hospitals and homes
Minimum design standards should be introduced for all public buildings including post-occupancy evaluation.
The same minimum space, design and environmental standards should apply to all new homes, whether they are privately or publicly funded.
A stronger planning system
More support was requested for Local Authorities to encourage good design including design review panels, better design advice and sharing planning services.