Housing and construction put at heart of economic strategy as part of a bid to reposition Labour as a “one nation” party

Labour Party annual party conference 2010

The Labour Party has put housing and the construction industry at the heart of its economic strategy as part of a bid by leader Ed Miliband to reposition it as a “one nation” party.

On Monday shadow chancellor Ed Balls pledged to introduce a £3bn programme to build 100,000 homes and cut stamp duty, while Miliband used part of his speech to pledge to focus on vocational training and apprenticeships.

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said the announcement by Balls was a “landmark day” for the Labour Party. “This is a hugely significant day for Labour and housing,” he said.

“Housing’s not been sufficiently centre stage in British politics for 25-30 years. This is going to change.

“The best way to get Britain moving is to get it building, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Balls’ speech said a Labour government would create 100,000 affordable homes, employing 150,000 people directly and up to 600,000 in the supply chain, and furthermore cut stamp duty on the purchase of homes of up to £250,000.

In addition he said Olympic Delivery Authority chair John Armitt had agreed to run a commission designed to build cross party consensus on major infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile Ed Miliband, speaking on Tuesday laid out a “one nation” vision of the Labour Party, saying that, if elected, all firms working on government contracts will have to employ apprentices. In return, businesses would be given control of designing and running vocational training courses.

In addition he pledged to focus on the “forgotten 50%” of children that don’t go to university, with the introduction of a “technical baccalaureate” for vocational training between 16-18.

Speaking to Building, Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said the focus on housing and “one-nation” government were inextricably linked. “If you look at the history of the Labour party, the people who founded the labour party [were the people that] built Britain, they built the homes we live in, the schools we learn in and the hospitals where we get treated.

“It’s at the heart of the one-nation Britain argument. We need banks to be financing our small businesses so they can create the jobs and wealth we need to see.

“We need our businesses to work with our educational institutions, particularly in the FE sector, so we’ve got job ready-people coming through their doors. And of course that’s massively relevant to the construction industry.”

The party’s focus on housebuilding was launched as government figures revealed that just 250 homes had been sold under the government’s NewBuy mortgage guarantee scheme between its launch in March and 30 June.

Matthew Oakley, head of economics at right of centre think tank Policy Exchange, said: “I agree with Ed Balls’ announcement on housing. We need to build more houses and it is becoming a huge political issue. But £3bn for one year is not enough.”