14th October Journal Column

CENEBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

The Conservative Party Conference drew to a close last week and while Theresa May said very little about policy in her final speech of the event, she did make her vision for the country very clear. In her own words ‘change is going to come’.

She made some significant comments about state intervention, which was interesting to hear, given that the common view across our industry over the past few months has been that the only way we will hit our 2025 homes target is if we have support from the state – (and rumours on the industry grapevine since the speech have suggested we’ll get exactly that).

Housing minister, Gavin Barwell has said he sees his job as ‘intervening’. Having such support from the state would mean we get more money and more public land to help SMEs enter the market, which is exactly what I was crying out for just last week.

The Prime Minister made it very clear she isn’t afraid of making the tough decisions needed to get Britain building, name-checking many major infrastructure projects along the way. I feel like this has been a long time coming, we’ve long needed someone with this attitude who isn’t afraid to make difficult decisions to get the industry to where it needs to be.

The PM disowned George Osborne’s 2020 budget surplus target, promising to “invest in the things that matter, the things with a long-term return” – most of all housing. It’s time to tackle the problems that have been holding the country and the industry back, time to tackle the shortage of affordable homes and invest in our infrastructure. She is more than happy to go forward with plans for High Speed 2, with further plans to expand Britain’s airport capacity.

High housing costs and the growing gap between those on the property ladder and those who are not are the main reasons for falling social mobility, falling savings and low productivity. May has vowed to do everything she can to financially help people buy their own home and has admitted that Help to Buy and Right to Buy are the right things to help us achieve that. But before we can help people buy a home we must first address the issue of their simply not being enough homes being built. It means encouraging and not being afraid of new technologies that will help us to build houses quicker.

In the PM’s own words ‘you need to put the hours in and the effort too, if you do, great things can happen. Great changes can occur.’ – I couldn’t agree more, time and effort have the power to give Britain and the industry all of the things we need to thrive.
Now these plans all sound very promising, but we’ll have to until the Autumn Statement in November to see if there are plans to follow through with this ideas … here’s hoping!