Tuesday, 05 May 2015

Autumn statement is ‘missed opportunity'

Housing groups have described yesterday’s autumn statement as a ‘missed opportunity’ and expressed concern that anticipated welfare cuts were not accompanied by more support for house building.

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled £3.7 billion a year of welfare cuts, including limiting local housing allowance increases to 1 per cent for two years from 2014, but close inspection of his announcements on house building have revealed there is no new cash.

In his statement to parliament, Mr Osborne said he was committing funding for 120,000 new homes. However 50,000 of these were previously announced by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, and the remaining 70,000 are also understood to be existing commitments.

The Chartered Institute of Housing said £190 million to accelerate the release of public sector land, and £100 million to acquire public land for development, had also been previously announced.

Brian Simpson, chief executive of Wirral Partnership Homes, said the welfare cuts were expected, ‘but that doesn’t mean the social housing sector is going to be any more prepared for its impact’.

‘All housing associations are feeling the pinch, and in order to give the sector a much needed push in the right direction, the government needs to include some radical changes in its budget for 2013,’ he added.

Home Group chief executive Mark Henderson also said he is ‘increasingly concerned about the sector’s ability to deliver the new homes the UK desperately needs’, as many tenants are hit by welfare cuts, and development funding is reduced.

However he welcomed moves to devolve housing spending to local enterprise partnerships, describing it as a ‘positive move and one that will further enable the delivery of housing zones which Home Group is lobbying for’.

Angela Brady, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said the statement was a ‘missed opportunity’ and the government is not doing enough to address the housing crisis.

‘We need to be building 300,000 new homes a year to meet current demands and solve the housing shortage,’ she said.

The chancellor also unveiled fresh cuts for government departments. Local government is protected from a 1 per cent cut in 2013/14, but will be hit by a 2 per cent cut in 2014/15 on top of existing planned reductions.

Jules Pipe, chair of umbrella group London Councils, said: ‘This means additional financial pressure on London councils as they seek to ensure a good school for all London’s children and decent homes for Londoners.’

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