Plan 'may have to be rewritten'
The government may be forced to rewrite the Communities Plan if regional housing strategies do not reflect national priorities, the Chartered Institute of Housing has warned.
Director of policy Sarah Webb told delegates that some regional housing boards had already indicated that their focus was different to that of central government. ‘There will be a real tension if government does not feel it is going to meet the decent homes target,' she said.
If the priorities set by regional housing strategies were ‘out of kilter' with national policies, Ms Webb predicted: ‘I think we will be faced with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister having a rewriting job.'
‘What we need to do is not get into a situation where they are in conflict.'
Government should build on policy developed at the regional level, she said. And she urged government to trust local organisations to make ‘appropriate decisions'. ‘Please trust us to know what is needed in our area.'
Ms Webb also called for resources to prepare the strategies. ‘I think if the strategies are going to be robust we need some directed resources benefiting the strategy and the boards.'
Steve Gregory, executive director of urban form at Sandwell Council, said the preparation of regional housing strategies was ‘in addition to the day job'. ‘It is not particularly well resourced and it is an issue we need to address both for local government and central government.'
He also argued that there was a need for more flexibility from government on the number and level of strategies that councils were asked to produce. Homelessness and Supporting People strategies could be produced on a sub-regional rather than local level, he suggested. ‘We could produce a far better strategy at the end of the day.'
Office of the Deputy Prime Minster director of housing Neil McDonald said it was important that there were nationally set ‘floor standards' such as the decent homes target. ‘It will only require a proportion of the money provided by regional housing boards.'
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