18 July 2019

Building toward a new administration

By Andrew Silverman

With just a few days to go before the conclusion of the Conservative leadership campaign, the property sector needs to be putting plans in place to get its views on government policy across to the new administration.

As a former Downing Street civil servant who saw several senior ministerial changes, I know from experience that the clock is ticking on making the necessary impact on government policy.

Timing is key. The first days for new Ministers will be filled with a flurry of activity. Private offices will already have in place a retinue of meetings with external stakeholders and internal briefings. Decisions will also need to be taken on issues left over from the past Ministerial team and speeches given at conferences and political events.

Of greater significance will be how new Ministers and their Departments work within the template of the new Government. In practice this depends on the modus operandi of the Prime Minister’s office, the role played by the No 10 Policy Unit and pressures arising from the lack of a Parliamentary majority. We have already heard from the campaign trail that both Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson want to see more house-building and have implied yet more slimming down of existing planning regulations.

In the post-Brexit period, the Government’s focus will be on selling UK PLC. For that officials will need to relay an accurate assessment of confidence in the property sector alongside policy proposals.

To us in the property sector it is obvious that what matters most when briefing Ministers is providing a perspective on what is required from the Government for the industry to deliver more, better, faster housing, to paraphrase Kit Malthouse, the current Housing Minister.

The Parliamentary calendar provides plenty of milestones for further political interaction, for example there is likely to be an Emergency Budget soon into the new Prime Minister’s regime, which could well replace the yet undated 2019 Comprehensive Spending Review.

This is an opportunity to press the Government on practical help for building more homes, unlocking strategic land and gaining legislative and policy assistance for further development.

In collating these thoughts it will be essential for the sector to think anew about its approach to the taxation, regulatory and planning regimes. The question here will be to what degree these changes should underpin economic growth and deliver the built environment requirements across the UK.

And finally, the sector will also need to set out its views on the degree to which Government can influence the flow of new skilled employees into the sector, especially if a post-Brexit UK seems a less attractive place to work for construction industry professionals.

There’s undoubtedly much more to consider for the property sector, but the timeliness of its intervention will ensure that new Ministers are aware of the business-critical issues facing them from day one.

Andrew Silverman

Andrew is a Business Director at Cascade Communications. He has worked at a senior level in both the Government and the private sectors. His career includes roles within the UK government in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence, Department of Transport and the Home Office.

He has advised a range of leading organisations including Glencore, Business in the Community, DONG Energy, Vattenfall, Wm Morrisons, Anglo American, British Airways, Gazprom, Alliance Boots, Hitachi and the Big Draw on their stakeholder relations programmes.
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