New housing secretary must explain how government will hit 300,000 homes-a-year target

We will know who the new prime minister of Great Britain is over the next few hours.

Incumbent foreign minister Liz Truss reportedly leads her opponent Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister, by a significant margin – and some believe that the race has been over for a while.

Reports in The Times last week suggested that Jacob Rees-Mogg will form part of a cabinet for Truss as the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities. But whoever is appointed will have to address fresh concerns raised by MPs regarding the levelling up and regeneration bill, which they feel does not provide sufficient clarity on how the government plans to achieve its target of building 300,000 homes a year.

The levelling up, housing and communities committee wrote to the the existing secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, Greg Clark, just over a week ago, setting out the committee’s initial findings following scrutiny of the levelling-up and regeneration bill.

The committee’s inquiry has focused on the planning provisions in the bill. However, the main tool to achieving levelling up will be ensuring there is appropriate funding going to the areas that need it most. The bill will do little to ensure improvement in key areas such as transport, skills training or digital connectivity, which would make a significant contribution to improving local communities.

In the letter, the committee expresses concern about the bill’s lack of detail on planning provisions amid fears of a move to a more centralised approach to planning decisions. It warns that while the committee had not heard significant criticism of the proposals, much of the substantive detail will come in secondary legislation or after further consultation, leaving people guessing as to the direction of the government’s planning agenda.

With the government still committed to its target of delivering 300,000 homes a year, the committee found that more clarity is needed on how the government plans to achieve this level of building. The bill would mean that a level of affordable housing provision will have to be met by local authorities but it is not clear if this a set target or merely a guideline.

The chair of the levelling up, housing and communities committee, Clive Betts, said: “In its current form, the Bill does little to reassure that levelling up will prove to be more than just a slogan and that we will have meaningful change in local communities across the country. In key areas, it is unclear how the Government intends to drive change and they are yet to commit to the spending that is necessary to level up the country.

“Our inquiry has focused on the planning provisions in the Bill, which can be described as loosely connected proposals to tinker with the current system, hopefully achieving some improvement. It has been difficult to conduct scrutiny due to a lot of the detail of the provisions having not yet been published. We were asked by the Secretary of State to give our view, and our advice is that more information is provided on what the government’s intentions are, and that the government states unambiguously that it is not seeking to centralise planning decisions.”



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One Comment

  1. DefinitelyNotMW

    Happy annual New Housing Secretary Eve everybody!!!


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