Who is arguing the case for more spending – or at least fewer cuts – on housing?
There is no difficulty recognising who is shouting the case for defence. The ‘leaked’ document showing the opposition of Liam Fox to significant cuts plays to the hefty pro-spending lobby in the MoD and tries to create what social scientists call ‘moral panic’ in the country, fearful for our national security.
A similar game is being played by Britain’s police. A series of high profile claims that spending cuts will increase road deaths (through reduced use of speed cameras) and street violence (through fewer of those bobbies-on-the-beat that we hear about) have created sympathetic headlines. Surely we cannot cut the services that keep us safe?
Even Ian Duncan-Smith, charged with bringing down a burgeoning benefits budget, has put up a rearguard action. Despite rumours to the contrary, a deal was hard to reach within Cabinet on the size of benefit cutbacks. It was only days ago that IDS said he “simply doesn’t recognise” savings outlined by Chancellor George Osbourne.
When it comes to money for homes, however, there has been a deafening silence. Who is standing up for this?
Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps may tweet about their latest TV appearances but so far have apparently remained conspicuously quiet about budgets. They undoubtedly know their housing brief extremely well – possibly far better than all 10 housing ministers in the last Labour government combined – but they still remain silent.
Perhaps there have been heroic, unleaked struggles behind closed doors, and we simply have not heard of them.
Perhaps Pickles and Shapps have said they need funds, for quangos or councils, to regenerate secondary town centres. Perhaps they say they need a budget for land for the “army of self builders” that Shapps hopes will defy the economic mood music and construct thousands of new homes. Perhaps they have called for money to be allocated for more low-cost housing built by local authorities or housing associations.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
Of course, the politicians gathered in Birmingham this week can point to a similar silence from the property industry itself.
The Home Builders’ Federation, a few consultancies and the odd developer have raised eyebrows over the ‘localism’ initiative but few have actually put their heads above the parapet and called for more help for the industry.
The public sector bodies connected with housing are even more trappist. Sir Bob Kerslake of the Homes and Communities Agency was an obvious spokesman to put the case with authority and respect. But guess what? From next month, he will be on the coalition government’s payroll – so let’s not expect waves from him.
So who is there, in government or in the industry, who will stand up in Birmingham and ask the simple question: what is the government doing to provide for a population judged to require two million new homes in the next 15 years?
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