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Queen’s Speech at a glance: Right to Buy, devolution and HS2

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The AJ picks out the key points of the Queen’s Speech

The speech delivered by the Queen at the House of Lords this morning (27 May) formally opened parliament and sets out the new Conservative government’s plans. Here the AJ breaks down the key points:

Housing

‘Legislation will be introduced to support home ownership and give housing association tenants the chance to own their own home.’

This refers to the Conservative party’s pledge to revive to Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme. First revealed in the party’s pre-election manifesto, the plans would allow 1.3 million housing association tenants to buy their homes.

The policy would be paid for by forcing councils to sell off their most valuable properties from their remaining housing stock, which the party believes would raise around £4.5 billion a year.

Once the homes have been sold, the councils will be required to replace them with affordable stock on a one-to-one basis.

Devolution

‘My government will bring forward legislation to secure a strong and lasting constitutional settlement, devolving wide-ranging powers to Scotland and Wales. Legislation will be taken forward giving effect to the Stormont House agreement in Northern Ireland.

‘My government will continue to work in cooperation with the devolved administrations on the basis of mutual respect.

‘To bring different parts of our country together, my government will work to bring about a balanced economic recovery. Legislation will be introduced to provide for the devolution of powers to cities with elected metro mayors, helping to build a Northern powerhouse.’

These statements refer to measures set to be introduced to devolve more powers to the regions, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The plans, led by chancellor George Osborne, include the transfer of power to English cities as part of proposals to create a ‘northern powerhouse’.

Under the plans cities that agree to elect mayors would gain control of local transport, housing, skills and healthcare.

High Speed 2

‘My government will continue to legislate for high-speed rail links between the different parts of the country.’

This sees the reintroduction of the hybrid bill for the high speed rail link which was first introduced as a motion under the coalition government.

It grants planning permission and compulsory purchase orders for the first phase of the HS2 route from London to the West Midlands [Birmingham]. The government is hoping for work to begin by 2017.

This does not include legislation to build the northern-most part of the route - phase 2 [Manchester/Sheffield/Leeds].

Europe

‘My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states. Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017.’

This sets out the government’s plans for an EU referendum, with a vote on whether the UK should stay in the EU due to take place before the end of 2017. It will be the first time since 1975 that the population has had a chance to have its say on EU membership.

Tax

‘Legislation will be brought forward to ensure people working 30 hours a week on the national minimum wage do not pay income tax, and to ensure there are no rises in income tax rates, value added tax or national insurance for the next five years.’

This sets out the Tory government’s plans for a ‘5 year tax lock’ which means there will be no rises in income tax, VAT or national insurance while they are in government.

It has also committed to raise the personal income tax allowance to £12,500 by 2020.

Small businesses

‘Measures will also be introduced to reduce regulation on small businesses so they can create jobs.’

These measures were first set out by new business secretary Sajid David and include a new Enterprise Bill. This will see a £10 billion cut in red tape for businesses through the creation of a Small Business Conciliation Service for help settling disputes and the simplification of the Primary Authority, which allows a business to get advice on regulation from a single local council.  

Reaction to the Queen’s speech from the profession

Stephen Hodder, RIBA president
‘We welcome the government’s commitment to housebuilding, but it is vital that the pressure to quickly alleviate the housing crisis doesn’t lead to sub-standard homes and communities. The RIBA supports the building of more low-cost homes on brownfield sites but high-quality design and infrastructure are essential to create desirable homes that meet the needs of current and future generations.

‘While we are pleased to see the Government’s commitment to neighbourhood planning, we remain deeply concerned by the loss of expertise and capacity from local authority planning teams and are cautious that the pressure to speed up the process could put the design quality of developments at risk.

We remain deeply concerned by the loss of expertise from local authority planning teams

‘Decentralising power from Central Government to English cities is essential to support a growing and balanced UK economy. We welcome the Government’s commitment to give cities the freedom to make big decisions on local transport, housing and skills. Cities must also be able to raise finance and retain income to invest in local priorities, including high quality housing and innovative infrastructure.’

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS head of policy
‘The government is clearly putting housing at the heart of its agenda but Right to Buy, Starter Homes and Brownfield together still fall short of a comprehensive supply strategy to the housing crisis. There is a huge amount of detail required on Right to Buy if housing associations and the people who need them are not to be disadvantaged.

‘Devolved powers to English cities offers the opportunity for property-led growth, but guidance on how LEPs and metro mayors will work together must be made clear in a prospectus which outlines the available powers and funding

‘Establishing a northern powerhouse will depend heavily on committed infrastructure spend – particularly in rail and broadband – if it is to unleash its economic potential. HS2 and these measures need to attract industrial occupiers to the north.’

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation
‘The prospect of an EU Referendum will bring a lot of uncertainty and, as we saw ahead of the Referendum in Scotland, this can cause a significant slowdown in investment activity, which could impact negatively on the built environment.
‘We urge the government to provide clarity about its parameters and timetable as soon as possible to reduce this risk.’

John Hicks, UK head of government and public, AECOM
‘A bold promise or hand cuffs around the Treasury, the five-year tax lock could easily narrow the options for producing the July Budget if tax take doesn’t emerge with the strengthening economy. Either way, it provides a challenging dimension given the government’s commitment to reducing the deficit.

‘It was encouraging to see an upfront reference to ‘raising the productive potential of the economy’ in today’s speech, as productivity was conspicuous by its absence in the March Budget and something we at AECOM have advocated as a ‘must fix’. More detail is now required as to how this will be achieved.

‘Measures to tackle energy security, reporting annually on apprenticeships and the push forward with high speed rail links to connect the country are all welcome moves that will have a positive impact on the economy. We also welcome the sustained commitment to building a northern powerhouse and devolution of power to cities. To achieve this vision, infrastructure delivery and economic regeneration must remain high on the agenda.

‘It remains to be seen whether introducing the right to buy scheme for housing associations will address the UK’s acute housing crisis. It is down to government to prove that a new-build programme of affordable housing and low-rent accommodation can be delivered at a rate sufficient to increase affordable stock.

‘All eyes will be on the July Budget for greater detail to address the UK’s productivity gap and build a strong, resilient economy.’

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council
‘Tackling climate change on the global stage is an absolute necessity and the Government’s renewed commitment is welcome, but we cannot ignore our responsibility to start the fight at home – beginning with our own homes and buildings. Energy efficiency represents one of the most cost-effective means of reducing our emissions and contributes to the UK’s energy security, yet it remains on the Government’s blind side.

‘The Queen’s Speech represents a missed opportunity for Government to set out how it can reduce emissions from our built environment.’

Mark Oliver, managing director, H+H
‘Back in 2010 the Coalition introduced the New Homes Bonus. It was supposed to incentivise local councils to increase the number of new homes built by giving them a financial reward, which they could then spend on more services or use it to reduce local council tax bills. It was hailed as the policy that would break down the local authority barriers to development, but we don’t hear much about it now and on the face of it not much has changed.

‘Many local authorities are inherently against development of any kind – shops, railways, airports and houses. Often, local politicians are elected on the promise to actually prevent development. On this basis I don’t think that the Cities Devolution Bill will have much impact on house building levels over the next five years.

‘Instead of using tax payers’ money to build new council houses, the Government has decided to use it to increase private home ownership within the existing housing stock.

‘Since 2012 around 30,000 council houses have been transferred into private ownership with a taxpayer subsidy. They were supposed to have been replaced on a one for one basis, but only around 3,000 new council houses have been built during this time. That’s a ratio of 1 in 10, so why should we believe that it will be any different this time around?’

 

Queen’s Speech at a glance: Right to Buy, devolution and HS2

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