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Autumn Statement gets mixed industry response

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, delivered this morning (5 December) has received a mixed response from the industry.
Much of the content had already been leaked to the public earlier, however, Osborne’s stated intention of more help for the housing industry has been welcomed.

The Chancellor said: “If we want more people to own a home we have to build more homes. The OBR (office for Budgetary Responsibility) has drawn attention to the weakness of housing supply in this country.

“We need to do more,” he said, announcing £1bn of loans to unblock large housing developments on sites in Leeds and Manchester. “Aspiration should not just be for people who can already afford their own home.

Councils will be given the ability to sell off their most expensive social housing so can that they can afford to build more houses, he announced. “Right to buy applications have doubled under this government and we will extend it.”

He also said that the Government’s Help to Buy is now helping “thousands of families who can afford mortgages but who don’t have the huge deposit that the banks are demanding”.

Andrew Halstead-Smith, group marketing manager at Ibstock Brick, said: “Following yesterday’s announcement of investment across the UK’s infrastructure, we are pleased to hear of the commitment to £1bn of loans to unlock large housebuilding developments. In addition, the inclusion of two more banks in the Help2Buy scheme marks a further boost to this initiative, which is helping to drive demand for bricks.

“At the depth of the recession in 2010, Ibstock foresaw the return to form of the construction industry and made the decision to invest more than £20m in the redevelopment of our Chesterton factory in the heart of the Potteries.

“In addition, Ibstock has also re-commissioned one of our Leicester production sites, bringing a total additional capacity of 125 million bricks per year to the market. Having made these brave investments, it is encouraging to see an ongoing focus on maintaining the growth of the construction industry and securing strong levels of brick manufacturing in the UK.”

However, the Federation of Master Builders said that the Chancellor must deliver on his promise to invest in Britain’s homes and that, once again, he has missed an opportunity to do so by refusing to reduce the rate of VAT on domestic renovation and repair.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “In his Autumn Statement George Osborne says he is backing British business and British families, and correctly named housing as the general public’s top infrastructure priority. However, the Government continues to focus on big-ticket projects such as road and rail, which will be years in the planning and are unlikely even to begin within the term of this Parliament.

“Householders need more help to combat the rising cost of heating their homes, and lowering the rate of VAT charged on all housing renovation and repair would do this at a stroke – for example a 15% reduction in the rate of VAT on insulation and double glazing would represent a significant saving to the customer, and empower homeowners to protect against spiralling energy bills. Only by making your home more efficient can you arrest, or even reverse, the seemingly inexorable rise in the cost of energy.”

NHBC’s Chief Executive, Mike Quinton, said: “We welcome today’s Autumn Statement highlighting measures to support house-building in the UK.

“It is crucial that the Government delivers these policies, such as the £1bn loans to unblock stalled housing developments and continued support of Help to Buy, to help the UK get back to producing the volumes required to meet the demand for quality, new homes.”

Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “The Chancellor is right to say ‘going green doesn’t have to cost the earth’ – if only he practised what he preached. Tax cuts for shale gas are a stark comparison to the butchering of ECO we’ve seen this week, a scheme which was helping many households with the cost of living crisis through lower energy bills.

“The emphasis on housing and infrastructure is welcome, but he’s missed an open goal by not recognising the potential for construction to deliver green growth.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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