Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has called for £3billion from a windfall sales of 4G network licences to be spent on building affordable homes, rather than paying down national debt
According to the AJ’s sister publication Construction News, Balls told the Labour party conference that the £3bn could be used to build up to 100,000 more affordable homes, creating thousands of jobs in construction and kickstarting the economy.
He said the move would help to ‘get our construction industry moving again’ and referred to the government’s lack of action on road building when criticising coalition policies on the economy and infrastructure.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, Balls claimed people were ‘fed up’ with government excuses, and that “they want action now”.
The sale of the 4G spectrum licence is due to take place next year. Labour estimates that it will raise £3bn, of which it pledges to spend £2.5bn on affordable housing and £500m on a two-year stamp duty holiday for properties worth less than £250,000.
Balls claims 119,000 jobs have been lost in the construction sector in the past two years, and that there has been a 68 per cent reduction in affordable home construction.
But Tory MP and vice chairman Margot James hit back, saying the money should be spent tackling the deficit.
She told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘We’ve already got plans to relax the planning laws, and free up government land and incentivise business, the developers, to build on the land that they’ve already got permission for.”
‘I would use some of that money to pay down the debt, rather than start thinking of ways of spending it, but that’s unfortunately Labour’s default position.’
Although welcoming the move, SAVE president Marcus Binney said Labour needed to acknowledge the ‘terrible damage’ done by spending billions on neighbourhood demolition under its own, now scrapped Pathfinder programme which saw that more than 30,000 homes flattened.
He said: ‘Just a mile from Manchester’s conference hall, acres of land are lying empty after being cleared of hundreds of affordable homes under John Prescott’s failed Pathfinder programme.
‘In too many areas of the north, the promised transformation simply never came, and communities are left with expensively procured ghost streets and wastelands.’
John Hitchcox, chairman of global property firm yoo, said: ‘Ed Balls’ call for 100,000 new homes is reminiscent of his old boss Gordon Brown promising three million homes back in 2007. Balls is right to say the State needs to put its backing behind construction – reflecting the Coalition’s decision to strip affordable housing requirements from private developers. Both are welcome policies that need to not be undermined elsewhere by stamp duty hikes and plans for mansion taxes.’