Responding to the publication of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill today, Sir Merrick Cockell, LGA Chairman, said:
"This bill represents an enormous opportunity to empower local areas to drive growth from the ground up. That opportunity will be missed unless the bill focuses on the things that can tackle the real barriers to growth. Further changes to the planning system will not address the key issues stalling development and will lead to delay and uncertainty.
"The Government should use this bill to lift restrictions on local authority borrowing, freeing councils to build new affordable homes and kick-start job-creating infrastructure projects. Councils have a proven track record of prudent borrowing. Their credit rating is excellent and interest rates would be low. The Government must let British councils take advantage of these conditions in the same way as municipalities in competing countries, like Germany, already are.
"Approval is in place for 400,000 new homes and councils are green-lighting planning applications at the fastest rate in a decade. The big problem is that developers can't borrow to build and first-time buyers can't get mortgages. Taking planning decisions away from local communities and placing them in the hands of an unelected quango isn't going to fix that. Nor is allowing developers to go back on promises to provide much-needed affordable homes and local infrastructure. This will only undermine communities' confidence in the planning system and make them less likely to accept development in future.
"We will be pursuing a major acceleration in the devolution of power and money to local areas so they can drive economic growth from the ground up. As well as expanding eligibility for the City Deals, the Government needs to devolve responsibility for skills and training to local areas so councils, colleges and businesses can work together to match training with jobs. There is a shocking skills mismatch in this country which has left the construction and building industries with far fewer trained-up workers than they need. That can only be properly addressed at a local level.
"The move toward local retention of business rates is a significant step in the right direction. It is vitally important that the new system shares a fair balance of risk and reward between local authorities and the Treasury, and delivers a fair deal for all local areas with varying capacities to grow. We are aware that businesses are having a tough time and postponing the revaluation of rateable value will give them more certainty. However, we believe the information on which business rates are set should be kept up to date and we would not want to see the revaluation postponed beyond 2017."
Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: LGA Media Office, Telephone: 020 7664 3333
19 October 2012