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Property industry disappointed by Chancellor’s spending review

While Chancellor Sajid Javid announced extra resource for local authorities, there is general disappointment that there was little for housing and planning in his spending review.

‘Additional funding for local authorities is much needed and welcome. However, the spending review offers little to support new housing delivery or overstretched planning departments,’ said Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation.

She pointed out that local authorities have a unique and vital role in alleviating the housing crisis and rejuvenating the UK’s struggling town centres, working in partnership with the property industry.

‘However, despite the ambitions of many local authorities, they simply do not have the resources to focus on the strategic issues that will shape and secure their communities’ long term future,’ Leech said.

‘Additional funding must be allocated to planning departments, which have seen the most severe cuts of any local authority service, with per-person spend on planning falling by 55% between 2010/2011 and 2017/2018,’ she explained.

‘While the announcement may ease some of the funding challenges facing local authorities, we cannot ignore the need for a more comprehensive change in the way that local government is valued and resourced,’ she added.

Martijn van der Heijden, chief strategy officer at Habito, said it was a missed opportunity given the recent speculation surrounding possible stamp duty reform and the crippling uncertainty faced by the UK’s housing market more broadly.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that house building and a new retrofit strategy must form part of the Government’s infrastructure revolution policy that was announced by the Chancellor.

‘The housing crisis is undermining the British economy. If we are to increase productivity and improve our competitive edge on the world stage, then building more new homes must form part of the Government’s campaign to upgrade our infrastructure,’ said Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB.

He welcomed the announcement for £241 million to be spent on the regeneration of high streets, town centres and local economies via the Towns Fund, and additional support for Homes England.

‘However, this must be part of an overarching strategy for new build homes and social housing, which will be key to securing a prosperous post-Brexit Britain. What’s more, we need a retrofit strategy to ensure that our existing homes are fit for the future, and to alleviate the scourge of fuel poverty,’ he pointed out.

‘An upgrade of our infrastructure, including building new world-class schools and hospitals, will require a strong construction industry. The skills shortage is highly concerning in this respect, with just under two-thirds of builders struggling to hire bricklayers and more than half of builders struggling to hire carpenters.

‘The announcement for an additional £400 million to be pumped into Further Education is a welcome boost to giving colleges and employers the resources they need to train more apprentices, and make T Levels, which will become the vocational counterpart to A Levels, a success. The spending round set the scene for a positive outlook for builders, but we need more details about how more new homes will be delivered,’ he added.