Budget 2017 – Demos’ Director Claudia Wood responds

Commenting on the 2017 Budget, Demos’ Director, Claudia Wood said:

On Green Belt reform:
Green belt reform is overdue. We need a strategy to look systematically at green belt – to separate the ‘green and pleasant land’ from the inaccessible bits of waste ground – and to protect the former and free up the owners of the latter to sell to housing developers. We also need to look at land prices, ring fencing unused land in town centres (e.g. NHS land) and planning process and land taxes, and green belt.

On Stamp Duty reform:
Stamp duty exemptions for first time buyers will only increase the ability of buyers to pay more for property, inflating already exorbitant prices, without necessarily increasing build volumes. The Government needs to focus more on fixing the fundamental issues on the supply side – and the question is whether this give away can be offset.

On the announcement of a review into housing approvals:
Demos welcomes the decision to announce an urgent review into the gap between planning approvals across the country – an issue we highlighted in 2015, in a report on NIMBYism demonstrating that the areas with the greatest need for new housing – particularly in the South East of England – were the least likely to grant housing permissions. We have found there is significant scope to improve these approval rates by increasing local residents’ engagement in the development process.

On Universal Credit:
Reforms to Universal Credit waiting periods and advances are welcome but several additional expensive fixes will be needed to get Universal Credit fit for purpose. Next up: sorting out withdrawal rates.

On the NHS:
The NHS funding boost offer is a classic example of how governments of all persuasions, motivated by short term pressures and grabs for voter popularity, willfully undertake a damaging segmentation of three deeply entwined policy areas – social care, housing and the NHS. Social care didn’t even get a mentions. Throwing cash at the NHS without reform to all areas will only create a black hole. They need to be taken together.

Claudia is a longstanding expert in housing, health and social care policy. She recently published a report on fixing supply-side problems in the housing market.