Going down slow

Going down slow

The phrase ‘silly season’ is usually used to describe the dog days of August when not much is happening to keep the nation’s news rooms busy, and so they fill up print and airtime with lightweight stories to keep us amused until the news cycle improves.

It’s certainly not August, going by the rain and temperature alone, yet the Government – to judge by its approach to housing – certainly appears to be in its dog days.

Given the general consensus that the Conservatives will be well beaten (to put it politely) at the next General Election, you’d think they’d be showing a bit more fight. The countdown to the GE is now in months and a party and/ or Government that hadn’t given up already might be expected to use the few windows of opportunity it has left to try to improve its fortunes.

Take the spring budget for instance. Admittedly, the Chancellor had little room for manoeuvre when it came to tax cuts and other giveaways, yet what was shocking was the lack of any attempt to stimulate growth anywhere.

Housebuilding being a case in point. The issues we face have been well-rehearsed here and need not be so at length again, but it was surprising how little effort there was to address them, especially given the importance of the sector socially, electorally and to the wider economy. The few measures that were presented relating to housing were described as one commentator as “diminutive” and another as “underwhelming.”

The Home Builders Federation weighed in thus: “The OBR has shown that a faltering housing market is costing the Exchequer billions of pounds in tax receipts while a retrograde planning policy agenda is hitting investment and already reducing employment. As well as the obvious social problems it has caused, the housing crisis now has deep-rooted economic consequences.”


And while the Chancellor was disappointing everyone, we should be reminded that his colleague Michael Gove had, only just previously, also been causing problems in housing elsewhere by tinkering with the National Planning Policy Framework, faffing around with nutrient neutrality, empowering NIMBY councils and wrecking the market for private BTL landlords.

Between the two of them, we must therefore assume the Government is exhausted and in defeatist mode: resigned to its fate, to see out its dog days, and to otherwise leave us in a housing and planning policy ‘silly season,’ with little to report, until the election.

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