Senior officials to discuss post-election policy with industry bosses, as government races to sign off pre-election PFIs.
Senior officials at 10 Downing Street are to host a summit of regeneration and housing industry bosses to help shape the government’s future housing policy, should it be re-elected at the upcoming general election.
The move comes as the government frantically tries to tie up all business in the built environment. This includes signing off key PFI deals that will otherwise have to be put on hold until after the election, at a cost of millions of pounds.
The summit, which is expected to be held in the next two weeks, has been prompted by government concern that the hundreds of millions of pounds it spends on regeneration projects every year is often frittered away as a result of lack of estate maintenance.
The full-day session is intended to explore ways of attracting private investment into the management of regenerated housing estates.
It will be a follow-up to a recent seminar hosted by senior policy adviser John McTernan, a key figure in the writing of the Labour Party’s election manifesto.
That seminar focused on how revenue could be generated from the establishment of community-based housing associations and charitable trusts, which would be able to generate their own revenue.
Jack Davies, chief executive of South Kilburn New Deal for Communities, also outlined to the seminar the project’s plans to use profits from private development to cross-subsidise the regeneration of local housing, an idea that has sparked interest in the Treasury.
Meanwhile, the political system will enter “purdah” – a term for the social isolation of Muslim or Hindi women, which is also used to describe a period of political inactivity – as soon as the general election is called. During this time, no PFI deals can be signed off.
One example is the £350m hospital PFI deal in Newcastle, to be carried out by Laing O’Rourke, which is to be signed imminently.
However, one leading PFI expert said that, with building inflation currently at 6%, delaying this scheme until after the election would add £1.75m to the total bill to taxpayers.
Within the planning system, all call-ins and referrals will cease, with the government likely to delay decisions on controversial schemes until after the election.
However, as Building went to press, it was understood that a planning decision on the largest residential tower in London, the 50-storey Vauxhall Tower, was imminent.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott is considering an inquiry report that is understood to have given the scheme the go-ahead.
It has been confirmed, however, that a decision over the future of the troubled £800m PFI hospital planned for Paddington in west London will not be made until after the election.