Tuesday, 22 May 2012

LGA Environment and Housing Board Report

A new understanding between LGA and DECC?
It was a lively Environment and Housing Board in May. The LGA produced a campaign plan entitled ‘Housing the Nation’ to lobby government to give Councils more powers to encourage new housing in their areas. One of the weaknesses of the campaign, in my opinion, was the lack of any emphasis on the need for more social housing to rent. Purchasing a house is beyond the reach of many people particularly young people. You have to question the wisdom of encouraging someone to spend an increasing proportion of their income over their entire working lives to purchase a home. We need a change in culture in the UK away from the dubious virtues of ownership to one where a secure affordable rented home is a serious option. There was an interesting and indeed surprising suggestion that came from one of the Conservative members to have an increasingly punitive tax on land where planning permission had been granted but development had not commenced. I christened it the ‘Tesco Tax’ due to their large land banks of land where building had not yet taken off.

The renewal of the LGA’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Energy and Climate Change provoked a lot of comment. The MoU was one where the 2 bodies were supposed to share intelligence and information on current policy developments and work together on action to tackle climate change. One bone of contention was the illegal cuts in the Feed In Tariff for solar PV which had been pursued with no reference to the LGA and had cost Councils many thousands in preparing for large scale solar projects which were now defunct. Clearly the MoU had been disregarded by DECC here. There were other examples which brought into question DECCs real commitment to buy into the MoU. There was general agreement that we needed to secure more assurances from DECC before renewing the MoU. One suggestion I made which was well received and accepted was for the LGA to establish another MoU but this time with industry. The interests of the microgeneration and energy efficiency sectors and local government coincide in a number of areas. We both want to see action on the ground and our principle common constraint is the policies of central government. Approaching DECC with a common message could give more weight to both organisations. I’ll let you know how it progresses.

No comments:

Post a Comment