The cross-party lobbying group that’s shaping government housing policy
Theresa May’s big housing announcement was largely the result of lobbying from one increasingly effective body. Now it wants more.
“Good housing is at the heart of everything we, as councils, do.” So says Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) and a senior Conservative.
He’s also someone house-builders should take notice of. Theresa May’s surprise conference announcement – that councils would be allowed to borrow to build more homes – didn’t come from nowhere. It was the result of long-standing cross-party lobbying led by the LGA. Gary Porter was at the heart of those efforts.
“The last time the country built enough homes, councils built 40 per cent of them,” he says.
His sentiments are backed up by another Conservative: Cllr Martin Tett. Cllr Tett chairs the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board.
“We need a renaissance in council building, led by a removing of borrowing restrictions and the ability for councils to keep the money raised from selling their homes,” Cllr Tett argues.
In recent years the LGA has rebuilt itself as an effective lobbying body for the local government family. Nearly every council in the country is signed up. It carefully constructs a cross-party consensus and then uses its clout to promote it at the heart of government.
Next in line
So what’s next for the local authority leaders?
The LGA has welcomed Theresa May’s announcement that councils will be allowed to borrow to build more homes, but they want the government to go further. LGA campaign aims include:
- A leading role for councils in shaping the investment that’s needed to provide infrastructure around new housing
- Scrapping the rules that allow offices to be converted into flats without planning permission
- Empowering local communities to have more say over development in their areas
- A system that “stops land values spiralling out of control”, allowing councils to deliver more affordable housing and infrastructure
Lord Porter and his colleagues don’t get everything they want, but those seeking to work with local authorities would do well to understand where they’re coming from. Who knows what will be in the PM’s conference speech next year.
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