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  4. Osborne's deficit reduction plan abandoned; £2b investment to speed up housing construction; and a housing white paper...

Osborne's deficit reduction plan abandoned; £2b investment to speed up housing construction; and a housing white paper...

Week in Westminster

Published: 7 October 2016 | Author: Michelle Vosper

The Conservative party conference began this week with the PM fleshing out some key parts of the process of the UK’s exit from the EU. Mrs May revealed that the UK would trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year, meaning we will theoretically be out of the EU by the spring of 2019. And a Great Repeal Bill will be included in next spring’s Queen’s Speech. The Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 (which gives EU law force in Britain) so that it will no longer apply from the date we formally leave the EU. The introduction of the Great Repeal Bill will give Parliament the chance to vote on EU withdrawal which they have been denied over the timing of triggering Article 50.

During his conference speech chancellor Philip Hammond announced that he would be abandoning George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan, and marks a big shift in political direction. Mr Hammond said the “task of fiscal consolidation must continue”, but that it will be done in a “pragmatic way that reflects the new circumstances we face”.  He intends to set out the details of his economic framework in next month’s autumn statement, but he said there would be greater scope for investment to boost the economy, including extra borrowing of £2billion to speed up the construction of new homes.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid announced three new housing measures:

  • A £3 billion Home Building Fund, to help build more than 25,000 new homes this parliament, and up to 225,000 in the longer term. The fund will provide loans for SME builders, custom builders, offsite construction, essential infrastructure.
  • A pilot to accelerate construction on public land and £2 billion of new investment to encourage new developers and different models of construction to build at up to double the rate of traditional housebuilders. Will deliver up to 15,000 homes in this parliament.
  • A package of measures for urban regeneration to regenerate cities and ensure more housebuilding is done on brownfield land.

Mr Javid also announced that a housing white paper will be published later this year with further ‘significant’ measures to meet the government’s ambition of 1million new homes by 2020.

Theresa May’s keynote address to close the conference had a fairly heavy emphasis on house building. “Ask almost any question about social fairness or problems with our economy, and the answer so often comes back to housing…high housing costs….lie at the heart of falling social mobility, falling savings and low productivity…there is an honest truth we need to address. We simply need to build more homes. This means using the power of government to step in and repair the dysfunctional housing market.”

And finally, at the time of writing Jeremy Corbyn is in the throws of announcing his new shadow cabinet. John McDonnell remains shadow chancellor and Jonathan Reynolds is the new shadow economic secretary. Clive Lewis has been appointed shadow business secretary and Sir Keir Starmer returns as shadow Brexit secretary.