At RICS election hustings event Grant Shapps defends policy of letting councils set their own housing targets

Tory shadow housing minister Grant Shapps this week pledged to take money away from “nimby” councils in order to fund incentives for local authorities willing to see housing growth.

Speaking at a pre-election hustings event in Westminster organised by the RICS in association with Building and sister title Property Week, Shapps defended his policy of allowing councils to set their own housing targets, which housebuilders fear will lead to a huge hiatus in housing construction.

Grant Shapps

Shapps has previously outlined his policy of giving councils six year’s worth of council tax for every home built in an authority, thereby incentivising them to allow more housing development.

Responding to a challenge by Nick Raynsford, Labour MP and former housing minister, that his policy was unfunded and would cost the Treasury billions, Shapps said: “What the policy clearly says is the money comes from the overall council settlement, which is about £30bn.

"It’s very simple. By definition areas that decide not to expand will find life tougher, and may have to raise council tax on their residents. It’s a really strong incentive.”

Shapps then confirmed the policy would see “nimby” councils – many of which are traditional conservative councils in the South-east – punished financially.

His statement comes despite last September’s conference pledge by shadow chancellor George Osborne that council tax would be frozen for the first two years of a Tory government.

Raynsford said: “You only have to do the figures to see that your scheme would cost billions of pounds, billions of pounds but you say there isn’t any money available.

"It’s completely non-credible and you frankly won’t ever be allowed by the Treasury to do it. The idea you can take £2bn-3bn out of the local government budget to fund this scheme is preposterous.”

The comments came following concerns raised by major housebuilders in the last week over the potential impact of proposed Tory changes to the planning system.

Barratt chief executive Mark Clare said: “Any change in the planning system is a concern, this includes the localism concept. We need as much stability as we can get.”

The hustings event was also attended by Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Sarah Teather.