Westminster encourages local councils to take on more powers

In a roundtable meeting with all the regional mayors in England, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have discussed how to scale up devolution and give regional governments greater control over unlocking economic growth, powered by housebuilding, in their areas. Local Growth Plans were also on the agenda, and the mayors were tasked to identify local specialisms and contribute to a national industrial strategy.

Candidates waiting for Job interview

How could mayors influence housing?

Metro-mayors are directly elected mayors who oversee ‘mayoral combined authorities’. These authorities cover several local authority areas, and the mayors have powers set out in devolution deals negotiated between the UK Government and local leaders. Eleven areas now have metro mayors, covering 18.8 million people, or 34% of England. Local government is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The metro-mayors powers depend on the level of devolution deal agreed with the Government. For example, the Mayor of Greater Manchester has the highest tier of devolution, giving them powers over strategic planning, compulsory purchase, Mayoral Development Corporations and a £150m brownfield fund whereas, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has no additional housing or planning powers at all under their deal.

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Going for growth

Propertymark has long argued that an infrastructure-first approach with schools, medical facilities and new roads and transport links is needed to improve the lives of existing communities but also support new house building. Therefore, it is pleasing to see Starmer prioritising the relationship with local government early in his tenure.

The Labour Government wants to build 1.5 million homes over the next five years and a generation of new towns. The National Planning Policy Framework will be reformed with a consultation on a new growth-focused approach to the planning system before the end of the month, including restoring mandatory housing targets and the UK Government will create a new task force to accelerate stalled housing sites across the country.

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What’s in a name?

It was also announced that the term ‘levelling up’ has been dropped, and the erstwhile Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will now be called the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government.

However, the principles that underpinned levelling up – more devolution, more mayors with more powers, and trying to find ways to improve left-behind areas, are still a key part of the UK Government’s approach.

Supporting our members through lobbying

The Policy and Campaigns Team has updated briefings and position papers throughout the summer. The survey responses from members are vital to support this work. We already have meetings with officials arranged from across the government and will be writing to all the new Ministers to increase this engagement further. We will also engage with local governments as they develop plans to set and deliver on new mandatory housing targets.

We will endeavour to ensure that housing, property and homeownership are key parts of the UK Government’s plans for national renewal and policymakers recognise the importance of Propertymark, our members and the sector.