Government must recommit to levelling-up to support our communities
15 November 2022
Ahead of the Autumn Budget this week, Places for People’s Policy, Research & Public Affairs Manager, Mary Raymer shares her insights from the Levelling Up and Regeneration Summit in Birmingham.
First up, the upcoming Budget is set to provide an opportunity for Government to embed some stability following the political turbulence of recent months.
Levelling up is here to stay
As a sector we often convene to discuss how to put housing at the centre of levelling up and last week’s event was no different. It was clear from the speakers and discussion that took place that despite levelling up being the current ‘badge’ from the Conservative Party’s manifesto, the principles underpinning levelling up are core to what housing associations do and why levelling up is so intrinsically linked to our social purpose in PfP. It is for this reason it is clear that levelling-up is here to stay and whether or not it is rebranded in the future the principles of regeneration and striving for a time that all parts of the UK have the same opportunities will remain. We as a sector are crucial to ensuring regeneration is done well and works with communities rather than against them.
Keeping the show on the road
There was some optimism on the horizon. Despite the current economic conditions providing the perfect storm - rapidly rising construction costs, increased cost of borrowing, softening of sales markets, potential cap on rents and the need to continue to invest in our stock – Lord Bob Kerslake noted that housing providers will always keep the show on the road. He emphasised that we may be forced to do less at the moment, but we can plan for the uptick in the future – which will come. Equally, there was a lot of drive to ensure the sector continues to deliver on quality as finances tighten, and to continue our aims of achieving net zero. Delivering improvements to our existing homes is just as important as delivering new homes – people want to love where they live, and this in turn helps improve customer wellbeing and overall prosperity.
Big decisions to come
From a policy perspective, there was a collective view that there has been a real missed opportunity in recent years as the Government have lost time in grappling with their internal politics and stalling policy decisions, particularly over the last 12 months. There was an air of optimism surrounding Michael Gove’s re-appointment as Secretary of State to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – he seems to be one of the few ministers who has lived experience with social housing and has the drive to do what’s best for the sector and our communities. The big question is what he can realistically achieve in the 18 months left until the next election, the risk being that the party will go for quick, short-term wins to gain electoral support, without much long-term strategic thought. The Government does, however, have some big decisions to come, particularly on the rent cap, the longer-term rent settlement and reforming the private rented sector. We’re looking forward to seeing how these will be addressed following the Chancellor’s statement on the 17th.
Despite the state of current affairs and the economic turmoil, I came away feeling that there is a lot of positivity in our sector and our organisation specifically – we are well placed to support our customers in this time of real need and access the hardest hit in our communities. To me, it’s all about focusing on giving people a hand up, rather than a handout, to support them on the journey to living their best lives.