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Listening but not hearing?

The government of the people,
by the people, for the people

I didn’t get to go to the RICS election hustings event that Building magazine and Property Week ran last night but I rather wish I had. However, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I’ve been made aware of some of the promises/ideas/pledges that were heard by the audience.

Speaking were the ubiquitous Tory shadow housing minister Grant Shapps, former Labour housing minister Nick Raynsford MP and Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Sarah Teather.

I’ve written before about Shapps’ plans to let councils set their own housing targets, something which housebuilders fear will limit the number of houses they are allowed to build. However, apparently the Tories would actually take money away from councils full of NIMBYs and give it to others who are more willing to fund housing growth. Hmm. Still can’t see that really going down well with the Tory heartland.

And the Treasury won’t be best pleased with some of the ideas either. Raynsford is scathing about Shapps’ policy of boosting council tax for pro-housing councils as a way of getting them to build more, on the grounds that the money will have to come from somewhere and that it will cost the Treasury billions.

Whichever party gets in is going to have to deal with the financial blackhole that the bank-bail-out left us. As well as the fact that we are still not building anything like sufficient houses at the moment to cater for our population needs. And the fact that some of the NIMBYish councils have a point and that housing has to be planned because building willy-nilly over fields and trees isn’t great for our environment. And the need to ensure that buildings are built to be energy efficient and nice to live in at the same time.

What do we really want from the next government? We want a government that’s going to listen to this industry, to all of it, from the contractors and housebuilders to the manufacturers and the merchants. We want a government that’s going to make an effort to understand the dynamics, problems and issues that this huge industry faces.

Under Labour, the industry got through eight construction ministers in as many years and the housing minister merry-go-round wasn’t far off that. Shapps et al say they are listening now. But for how long and are they really hearing what the industry is saying?

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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