Conservative Party Conference 2018- Closing Thoughts
By Luke Major
Last Sunday, as Cascade travelled to Conservative Party Conference, there were rumours of a big announcement scheduled for that evening - possibly as a means of dampening any post-conference jump in the polls for Labour. However, the announcement was delayed, with many attributing this to the embarrassment over problems with the Party’s own conference app, or perhaps in anticipation of the media frenzy Boris Johnson would cause.
The announcement to remove the borrowing cap for local councils to build houses in the Prime Minister’s closing speech on Wednesday left many somewhat surprised, particularly those who had spent hours with the Government's Housing Minister at Conference fringe events in the preceding days, with no mention of such a policy on the agenda.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that local councils and politicians on both sides had been calling for this for some time, it's a move that snookers Labour - who will have no choice now but to support the policy or risk creating further divisions in their own Party.
Cascade will provide a more comprehensive analysis of this once the dust has settled and the practicalities of this new pledge are revealed. In the meantime, we are considering the following questions:
Due to the state of some local authorities’ finances, will all of them be in a position to secure the bank loans necessary to deliver more housing?
Do councils own enough land to make a meaningful impact on housing supply and, if they don’t, how will they compete with private developers to bid for land?
If councils cannot compete for land to develop housing, is reform possible to deregulate planning law to make land less expensive or strengthen CPO powers?
Whilst scrapping the borrowing cap took the headlines, our other key takeaways from Conservative Party Conference include:
Housing – the Government still refuses to take the politically unpalatable, but necessary steps (such as easing planning restrictions on green belt land) to maximise the delivery of new homes, because of fears they will spook their core sub-urban and rural vote. Instead they are focusing on improving rental market standards, developing brownfield land, strengthening green belt planning restrictions and the rhetoric of ‘community-led’ development. However, in response to this, we expect that pre-fabricated and modular homes will remain topical, because of the speed they can help deliver housing stock. There are still a couple of hurdles for this type of housing to overcome, namely the reluctance of the banks to provide appropriate mortgages and consumer perceptions over quality.
Local government finance - the summary of this is simple; local government is feeling heavily squeezed in all directions but especially in demand on Adult Social Care and Children's Services. Local authorities are pushing hard for greater powers to raise revenue and many rural and county authorities are seeking the redistribution of funding due to a sense of injustice over the perceived greater support for inner-London boroughs. The sentiment of many Conservative councillors (echoed by those Labour and the Lib Dems) is that central government has pushed too far in terms of cuts and it is time to redress this balance.
Brexit - speaking with Euro-sceptic Government Ministers, MEPs and trade experts, there seems to be more confidence that a satisfactory trade deal will be reached with the EU, before Brexit in March 2019. In terms of what to expect, it may closely resemble the ‘Swiss Model’ (minus free movement of people), which is outlined in number two of this list here.
Join us for conference season 2019
Throughout the entire conference season, we have been preparing and implementing bespoke 'conference packages' for our clients from across the property and development sectors.
If you would be interested in how Cascade can deliver for your business at next year's conferences, then get in touch now about our 2019 packages. You can click here to email the Cascade team, or call us on 0207 871 3565.