Full in-tray for next Prime Minister

5 Jul 2019

Policy area: BPF

Published in Estates Gazette this week, our Chief Executive outlines the property sector’s priorities for the incoming Prime Minister

We will find out soon who our next Prime Minister is to be and whether or not they have the ability to unite rather than divide, and to bring leadership and clarity of vision where we have had uncertainty and policy stagnation for too long.

Theresa May leaves a full in-tray for her successor, and an unenviable task of bridging political and societal divisions, providing a vision that the nation can get behind, and delivering Brexit in a way that will not undermine our international relations or damage our economy.

The property sector will play a critical part in supporting government, and the UK’s economic and social wellbeing, as Brexit unfolds and beyond. I’d argue in fact that our sector’s role is now more important than ever before, as it is our investment that creates the physical environments that will support modern ways of living and working – and this will underpin the UK’s success in the future.  

The next Prime Minister’s in-tray will be overflowing, and Brexit must be the top priority. He must unite the Conservative party, work with the other parties, and ensure the UK does not crash out of the EU without a deal, and on bad terms. Alongside other business leaders, we have called consistently for the Government to avoid a No Deal Brexit, and we urge the next Prime Minister to listen.

The UK must remain open, with the right conditions to support investment and trade. Of particular concern to our sector is the continued attraction of talent to the UK (and that those from the EU feel welcome here) – not only to ensure the construction sector has the workforce it needs but to ensure, for example, that our world-class universities are still the destination of first choice for international students.

Beyond this, here’s some thoughts from the property sector to help our next Prime Minister prioritise:
 

  1. De-carbonising the built environment
    The Government has a net zero carbon target by 2050, and it will legislate, but as of yet there is no roadmap for how the built environment is going to achieve this, including the issue of how to improve energy efficiency of owner-occupied buildings. The Government must not simply move the goal posts every five years – the property sector requires a plan that clearly takes us from today to 2050.
     
  2. Multi-tenure housing
    Support for build-to-rent and every other part of the housing sector must continue, including more purpose-designed housing for older people and more spending for social housing, if the Government is serious about achieving its housing targets.
     
  3. Regional transport infrastructure
    Transport infrastructure boosts connectivity, unlocking productivity, economic growth, new housing delivery and investment into traditionally harder-to-reach areas. The next Prime Minister must deliver on the Government’s promises – from Crossrail 2, and airport capacity to HS2 and Northern Rail, the Government must not continue to needlessly stall much-needed transport investment.
     
  4. Business rates
    We can’t have a sensible conversation about the future of our town centres if the Government does not consider fundamental reform to business rates. It was interesting to note that Matt Hancock, when still in the leadership race, suggested that if elected he would reform the current system – and the BPF’sRachel Kelly also recently gave oral evidence at the Treasury Select Committee’s inquiry on the impact of business rates on business – perhaps evidence that politicians are finally prepared to grasp this nettle.
    And, while we are on the subject of high streets, please sort out the unfair mis-use of the CVA process.
     
  5. Planning
    It’s all very well making money available for renewing town centres and enabling infrastructure, but if planning teams up and down the country are not well enough resourced to process these ambitious spending plans, the Government’s aspirations will remain just that.

 

By Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation