The National Audit Office and Audit Commission are conducting an inquiry into housebuilding in the UK

It is understood they have launched the investigation because of concern about the efficiency of measures in the ODPM’s £38bn Communities Plan to build more homes.

A source who attended a private session in London last week where evidence was submitted said: “They see there is a need to increase the 150,000 or so private homes that are built each year and the number of affordable homes.

“They wanted to know what the problems were stopping supply going up, so we told them about the continuing uncertainty over the planning system. They seemed to take that on board.”

The meeting was attended by representatives from housing associations, local authorities and housebuilders.

It was chaired by Roy Irwin, chief housing inspector at the commission. Advisers from consultant Pricewaterhouse Coopers were also present.

It is understood the inquiry is primarily concerned with the ability of the ODPM to meet a key performance target known as public service agreement 5.

The ODPM website said this “public service agreement” covered the balance of housing supply and demand across England and improving affordability. It also commits John Prescott’s department to preserving green belt areas.

The source added: “They are looking at every aspect that relates to PSA 5, not just the relationship between local authorities and housebuilders.”

They are looking at every aspect of public service agreement 5, not just the relationship between local authorities and housebuilders

Source at the National Audit Office and Audit Commission

Roy Irwin, who is leading the inquiry, said: “The review is part of a wider look at the efficiency of government delivery chains.

“We wanted to see how these could be improved – with the ODPM PSA 5 there is no way of measuring how this could be achieved, for example.”

The meeting comes as the latest housebuilding figures issued by the ODPM for the first quarter of the year showed housing starts in England were 5% lower than in the same period 12 months ago. They are now 40,300. English completions had increased from 133,111 a year ago to 154,600, an 8% rise.

Overall starts showed a similar percentage increase, rising to 173,500.

The reason for the increases were strong figures for London, where completions rose by almost a quarter to 23,920.

Starts fell on the corresponding period 12 months ago in seven of the nine English government office regions.