Shadow housing minister says a Labour government would help the industry to build on a ‘grand scale’

Jack Dromey

A Labour government would “double” the current rate of housebuilding in a major drive that will involving closer partnerships between councils, volume housebuilders, SMEs and housing associations, the shadow housing minister has said.

Speaking on the fringe of the Labour Party conference this morning, Jack Dromey said councils, working in close partnership with housing associations and housebuilders, will be the “key engine of delivery” in Labour’s proposed drive to boost housebuilding numbers to 200,000 a year.

Ed Miliband is expected to outline today Labour’s committment to ensure 200,000 homes are built each year by the end of the next parliament, with the party appointing Sir Michael Lyons to a new commission to examine ways to boost housebuilding.

Speaking at event organised by London Councils, the shadow housing minister defended the party’s target of 200,000 new homes a year, below the estimated annual rate of household formation of 230,000 to 240,000.

Responding to a question over whether the target of 200,000 homes a year is enough, Dromey told Building that meeting this figure was already a “formidable challenge”.

He added: “We are talking about at least 200,000…are we going to stop at 200,000? No we are not.”

He said: “Large-scale builders will be partners in a major house building programme. We will be demanding partners but there will be a long term certainty [for housebuilders] which doesn’t currently exist.

“We are talking about a scale of ambition that no government has engaged in for a very long time. Our aim is to double housebuilding.”

Dromey said there was no “silver bullet” to tackle what he described as an acute housing crisis, but said bringing SME builders back into the market and expanding self-build and the private rented sector were all part of the solution.

He also backed further institutional investment in housebuilding including the use of council pension schemes plus the creation of “new towns and garden cities”.

Speaking at an event hosted jointly by the National Federation of Builders and Federation of Master Builders, Dromey said that despite government rhetoric on opening the supply chain to SMEs, the small builders continued to find themselves excluded from public procurement.

Dromey said two thirds of the homes built used to be by SMEs, but now that had dropped to just one third.

He said a Labour government would support Britain’s SMEs to build “on a grand scale” in the next parliament,

He said Labour would work to “shape and popularise” existing government schemes to boost SME involvement, saying a lack of awareness was often a real issue.

He added that would not “tear up” the government’s planning reforms, although alterations would be considered.

In his speech to the conference this morning, shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said the housebuilding push would not involve “top down targets”.

He said: “Labour will get Britain building again. We’re just not building enough homes and yet, in the last few years, the profits of the big housebuilders have soared.

“Land is too expensive. Too often developers hang on to it hoping for the price to rise. And communities feel powerless.

“So what will a Labour Government do?

“First, we must admit that we can’t carry on saying on the one hand “where are the homes for the next generation?” and on the other ‘please don’t build them near me’.

“Nor will we get more homes by top-down targets. Councils and communities must take that responsibility but they need more power to be able to do so.

“Communities should know where land is available. That’s why we will ensure developers register the land they own or have options on.

“And where land is not brought forward for homes, communities should be able to do something about it.

“And when communities have given planning permission they should be able to say to developers: we’ve given you the go ahead so please get on and build the homes you said you would. And if you don’t then we’ll charge you and, if you still don’t, we’ll sell the land on to someone else who will.

“Secondly, there are areas in the country where councils and communities see the need for more homes but there just isn’t the land to build them on.

“So the next Labour government will give those communities a new ‘Right to Grow’, allowing them - if they want - to expand and ensuring that neighbouring areas work with them to do so.

“Thirdly … it’s time to build new communities - new towns and new garden cities. That’s what the great Attlee Government did as they started to rebuild Britain and we need that same spirit again.

“So we will invite local authorities to come forward, and in return, we will make sure that they get the powers and the incentives they need to acquire land, put in the infrastructure and build. Build those new communities.

“Getting Britain building, with communities taking the lead. People deciding where the new homes will go and what land they want to preserve.”