With the party manifestos now published ahead of the General Election on 4 July, Chris Cowcher, our Head of Policy and Communications, considers how the policies included could support our sector.

We’re 3 weeks into the 2024 General Election campaign, and this week marks a significant milestone in the period before polling day. The party campaigns progress from soundbites, statements, claims and counter claims by publishing their manifestos, giving the electorate their vision and ambitions for the future of our nation.

It is the detail of these documents will which now frame the narrative between now and when people get their chance to cast a vote, and for the community business movement they should inform the questions we are asking candidates when they engage with our network.

I’ve attempted to summarise the most relevant content and provided some questions our members may like to use when speaking with candidates in their local area.

Positively, community ownership and the cooperative movement feature prominently across most of the manifestos. Rural communities, where most of the Plunkett supported network is found, and more explicitly the challenges faced by rural residents has also been picked up as a theme. There’s no ‘golden ticket’ on offer, but there are plenty of ‘nuggets’ for the community-owned business sector to engage with.

First out the starting blocks this week was the Lib Dems, who published their manifesto For a Fair Deal on Tuesday. These are some of the key points to note, the Liberal Democrats state that they will:

  • Enhance powers over community assets to help protect pubs, community farms, and other vital infrastructure.
  • Support the expansion of community and decentralised energy
  • Promote community-led development of cities and towns, as part of a commitment to increase the building of 380,000 new homes.
  • Trial Community Land Auctions, where communities receive a fair share of benefits to fund vital services
  • Appoint a cross-department Minister for Rural Communities
  • Use banking hubs to support maintaining access to cash in rural areas.

Questions our members may like to ask local candidates:

  • Is there an opportunity to consider a Community Right to Buy as part of the commitment to enhance powers related to the protection of community assets?
  • In relation to the Lib Dem commitment that all development “has appropriate infrastructure, services and amenities in place” is there an opportunity to encourage local authorities to proactively promote community ownership and social enterprise models in terms of delivering and being responsible for key assets?

The ‘Real Hope. Real Change.’ Manifesto from the Green Party includes the following key points of interest, where they state that they will:

  • Set up regional mutual banks to drive investment in decarbonisation and local economic sustainability by supporting investment in SMEs and community-owned enterprises and cooperatives.
  • Set a minimum threshold of community ownership in all sustainable energy infrastructure.
  • Rebalance the power dynamic between big food manufactures and local alternatives such as local food networks, community-supported agriculture and other co-operatives.
  • Establish a Co-operative Development Fund.
  • As part of the pledge to ‘Buy the supply’ elected Greens would introduce legislation to give local authorities, registered social landlords and community housing groups the first option to buy certain properties at reasonable rates.

Questions our members may like to ask local candidates:

  • What more can be done to promote the opportunities and benefits that community-supported agriculture, cooperatives and community-owned businesses could bring to communities across the country?
  • How would the Co-operative Development Fund operate in practice? Would local groups be able to access support?

The Labour’s manifesto ‘Change.’ was published on Thursday. These are some of the key points to note, Labour state that they will:

  • Double the size of the UK’s co-operative and mutuals sector (of which community businesses is a part), as part of a pledge to support diverse business models which bring innovation and new products to the market.
  • Work with the existing and co-operative and mutuals sector to address the barriers to growth, including access to finance.
  • Partner with energy companies, local authorities, and co-operatives, as part of their ambition to set up Great British Energy, to install thousands of clean power projects, through a combination of onshore wind, solar, and hydropower projects.
  • Invite communities to come forward with projects, and work with local leaders and devolved governments to ensure local people benefit directly from this energy production.
  • Transfer power out of Westminster, and into our communities, with landmark devolution legislation to take back control. *Whilst it was not referenced in the manifesto, Labour, in follow up communications have pledged to instigate a “Community Right to Buy” as part of their devolution ambitions.

Questions our members may like to ask local candidates:

  • How would you ensure that any ‘devolution legislation’ has been rural proofed?
  • How can we, as a community business movement feed in to your work which considers the barriers to growth for the Co-operatives and Mutuals sector.


If your business is based in Scotland, you may wish to also review the Scottish Labour’s National Recovery Plan manifesto which contains pledges related to funding, the rural economy and tax which is relevant for our sector.

In Wales, Welsh Labour have published a manifesto which contains six steps to support change in Wales.

The Conservatives manifesto “Clean Plan. Bold Action. Secure Future” came out on Wednesday. These are some of the key points to note, the Conservatives state that they will:

  • Extend the Community Ownership Fund, which has already supported over 300 pubs, shops, pools, and heritage assets to become community-owned by a further 3 years.
  • Extend the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (post Brexit funding) for a further 3 years (delivering a further £540 million a year for communities across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)
  • Continue to ease the burden of business rates for high street, leisure and hospitality businesses.
  • Retain key tax incentives that encourage small businesses to grow.
  • Deliver Civic Service funding to community groups focused on increasing life chances, instilling civic pride and boosting people’s skills.
  • Provide fairer funding for councils in rural areas through the Rural Services Delivery Grant.
  • Invest £4.7 billion for smaller cities, towns and rural areas in the North and Midlands to spend on their transport priorities.

Questions our members may like to ask local candidates:

  • How much money will be allocated to an extended Community Ownership Fund? And do you anticipate the application process remaining as it is now
  • Will the Rural England Prosperity Fund (in England only) also be extended alongside the UK Shared Prosperity Fund?

In Scotland, the Scottish Conservatives have published a manifesto which aims to ‘strengthen the United Kingdom’ which contains pledges related to Levelling Up across Scotland which community businesses may like to use to support engagement with local candidates.

Launched on Thursday, Plaid Cymru’s manifesto ‘For Fairness, For Ambition, For Wales.’ contains the following pledges, where they state that they will:

  • Promote co-operative, employee and community ownership models. This may be particularly appropriate in communities where private capital appears unwilling to invest but where services are locally valued and important.
  • Grow the national energy company, Ynni Cymru, which will expand community owned renewable energy generation across Wales.
  • Provide support to local communities to keep open important services, such as pubs and community centres, which are under threat due to rising costs. This point is referenced specifically in relation to a point about how living in rural areas can cost more than living in urban areas, while services are less easily available.

Questions our members may like to ask local candidates:

  • How can Westminster most effectively support the growth of the community ownership sector in Wales? Is it funding? Legislation?
  • How can Westminster support / empower the Senedd’s existing ambitions for supporting community assets in Wales in future?

Against the backdrop of a Social Club in Merthyr Tydfil, Reform UK have launched their ‘Contract with You‘. We’ve reviewed the document and have pulled out some policy ambitions which could be of interest to the community business sector, even if community ownership was not explicitly mentioned in the document. The policies are particularly relevant for members of our network that are already trading:

  • Lift VAT threshold to £150k
  • Lift Corporation Tax threshold to £100k and drop the main rate from 25% to 20%, then to 15% from year 3.
  • Abolish Business Rates for high street based SMEs.

Questions our members may like to ask local candidates:

  • How would you support new community-owned businesses to open in the constituency?
  • As well as investing in British Farming, what further support could be offered to other rural businesses to encourage a diverse economy to thrive in the countryside?

The Scottish National Party (SNP) manifesto, called “A Future Made in Scotland” contained a few points of reference that are relevant to the community business sector, namely:

  • Rural visa pilot scheme, to help mitigate against labour shortages in key industries
  • Request for further devolved powers related to planning to deliver increases in community benefit
  • More funding for farming, fishing and other rural sectors (as part of a manifesto pledge to seek to rejoin the EU)

It is worth noting that SNP’s main priorities related to community ownership and community wealth will be delivered as the party of power in Scotland, ahead of the election, members in Scotland may wish to ask candidates how can the next Government in Westminster most effectively support a growing community ownership sector in Scotland?

We need support for our sector from all parties, so getting candidates to show their support for community-owned businesses on site visits etc. is a really positive course of action!

If you have any direct engagement, please make the case that our movement is ‘more than bricks and mortar’ and share your stories of impact with them, so that we can recruit champions for our movements across all the parties represented at this election.

Please do let us know if you are engaging with prospective parliamentary candidates as we are happy to help prepare briefings for you to use and share, and also if capacity enables it we can also be present on the day to help you host party representatives at your business.

As a reminder, all of Plunkett’s ambitions for a future government can be found on our website and if you have any questions or would like to discuss our advocacy and external affairs please feel free to get in touch via chris.cowcher@plunkett.co.uk.

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