Balls calls for 5% VAT on domestic refurbishment as part of plan to stimulate economy

Labour shadow ministers have called for a “new generation of council house building” at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool, in order to kick start the economy and provide homes and jobs.

The calls came as shadow chancellor Ed Balls (below) urged the government to institute a temporary cut in VAT to 5% on domestic refurbishments, and for the proceeds of a renewed bank bonus tax to be spent on building 25,000 affordable homes.

However, senior Labour figures cautioned that the call by Balls for coalition action now, launched on Monday as part of a five-point action plan to stimulate the economy, did not necessarily mean this would form part of the election manifesto in 2015.

However, Labour’s team of shadow housing and planning ministers, who are half-way through the housing policy review, signalled that a renewed focus on council housebuilding will be among policies to emerge.

Other plans for housing include:

  • Pressure on mortgage providers to increase home lending
  • Reform to allow institutional investment in housing for rent, including through longer private sector tenancies
  • A full review of public land
  • Exploration of new models of home ownership.

In her keynote speech to close the conference yesterday, shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint was expected to give further details of the plans.

In a policy briefing released in advance she said: “We should be looking to new models of home ownership. This can only be done if additional finance, particularly from institutional sources, is brought to bear on increasing the supply of new affordable homes.”

Shadow communities minister Jack Dromey told a fringe event that it was “wrong” that the previous Labour government had allowed council housebuilding to fall to as low as 300 homes per year during its terms of office: “We will argue for investment in a new affordable housebuilding programme. We need a new generation of council build.”

Shadow housing minister Alison Seabeck raised the possibility that councils could self-fund construction programmes using the greater financial autonomy they are set to receive.

Click here for Joey Gardiner’s blog from the Labour conference in Liverpool