DCN RESPONDS TO 2017 AUTUMN BUDGET
Responding to the Autumn Budget, Cllr John Fuller, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said:
“The Budget rightly puts housing centre stage and whilst the Chancellor has articulated a key role for councils in building more homes in local areas, we believe some of the proposals announced today to access borrowing should go further and faster. We are determined to deliver more homes for our residents which are both appropriate and affordable. The whole country needs more homes and the raft of additional housing and infrastructure funding streams announced today must be available to all district councils who know their local areas best.
“District councils are the planning and housing authorities and will welcome the focus on making sure approved developments actually result in new homes being built. A rebalancing of the negotiating strength of local authorities is important and it is clear that developers have been put on notice that they will be expected to make good on the promises they make when they seek land to be allocated and permissions to be granted. The threat of deallocation should focus the minds of speculators on delivery, rather than financial engineering. This will help ensure families in all parts of the country can aspire to a roof over their heads at a price that they can afford.
“The Government has finally begun to realise that homes owned by councils are assets that can support borrowing to deliver more homes. However, the Government must go further, and lift the housing revenue account cap for all stock holding district councils immediately, rather than creating a bidding process for certain councils in future years. Additionally access to flexible borrowing for those authorities without housing stock is vital to ensure all districts can play their part, if we’re to truly deliver the homes we need. Flexibility around Right to Buy receipts is also essential. We also welcome the new housing deals covering districts in Oxfordshire, which should be extended to other ambitious district areas.
“We are disappointed that the clarity we had hoped for over CIL is yet to materialise. Some of the technical changes have been addressed but land value uplift has proved complicated in the past and is likely to delay urgent reforms that will finance the infrastructure to get stuck into the largest sites with the highest entry costs.
“The Budget rightly emphasised the importance of having incentives to encourage housing growth. In the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement we must see no further changes to the New Homes Bonus to ensure that it can continue to encourage the levels of housing growth required.
“The impact of the changes to business rates from RPI to CPI must not result in local government funding reducing. We await confirmation that local government will be no worse off next year as a result of this earlier switch and all future changes to business rates must be cost neutral for districts. We also need further certainty around the move to 100 per cent business rates retention.
“The changes to Universal Credit are important for district authorities and will reduce the demand on our services for those in need who require emergency help and are concerned about homelessness and arrears.”
CONTACT: District Councils’ Network media office, 020 7664 3333