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06/07/2016

Clark confirms that local government will be part of Brexit talks

Words: Laura Edgar

Communities secretary Greg Clark says Whitehall cannot be the "default destination" for powers returning from Brussels.

Speaking at the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Annual Conference, Clark also said the response to leaving the European Union (EU) has to be a “radically expanded role for local government”.

“That means that local government must be represented at the negotiation table. I argued successfully last week for English local government to be part of the negotiations on the terms of our exit,” he added.

Clark asked the association’s chairman Lord Porter to put together a team of councillors representing all parties and all parts of the country to “to make good use of this seat at the table”.

This followed a call from the association yesterday (5 July) that councils must have a seat at the table and play a leading role in negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU. 

‘Renaissance’ in council house building needed

 

Latest LGA research, launched today on the second day of its conference, suggests that four million people would need access to some type of affordable housing even if the country achieves full employment by 2024.

The association said the widespread demand for affordable homes would be “much higher” if the country fails to train “millions” to take the higher-skilled and higher-paid jobs that are projected to be created by 2024.

The economic uncertainty facing house builders following the UK’s vote to leave the EU could make it “difficult for private developers to rapidly build enough homes on their own”.

At the conference, leaders insisted that a “national renaissance” in council house building must be “central to solving our chronic housing shortage” and to deliver a variety of housing types.

The association set up a Housing Commission last year, to explore how renewed investment in different new homes that people need “can deliver the significant wider benefits for communities”.

Having heard from developers, planners, charities, health partners and housing associations, the LGA has published early findings from its research today (6 July).

The report, it said, finds councils should be enabled to help build more homes that plug gaps in the market, in particular affordable homes, homes meeting the needs of those in crisis, and to support an ageing population.

Peter Box, LGA housing spokesman, said: “Bold new action is needed and in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, national and local government must come together around our joint ambition to build homes and strong, inclusive communities.

“A renaissance in house building by councils must be at the heart of this bold new action.”

Box explained that although the private sector plays a “crucial” role, it cannot build the homes required on its own, and would “likely be further restricted by uncertainties in the months and years ahead”.

“We must be freed to make this change happen. Today, our LGA Housing Commission aims to build on what we know works so that councils and our partners can lead the building of homes, communities and prosperity for future generations.”

Calls for 'national renaissance' in council house building should be heeded

 

This call for a “national renaissance” in council house building should be heeded in the wake of current economic uncertainty, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, chief executive, FMB, said: “Today’s call from the LGA for a ‘national renaissance’ in council house building is timely and we urge the government to allow local government the freedom and support it needs to once again take a leading role in building new homes.

“At present, for every £1 spent on house building by the government, roughly £4 is spent on housing benefit. By increasing public spend on house building, homes will become more affordable and at the same time, significantly decrease the housing benefit bill.”

Prevention, Berry said, is better than the cure and FMB believe that a commitment by the government to “crank up” its programme of council house building would serve to “ease any jitters in the building industry and the wider economy”.

Image credit | Shutterstock

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