Will housing be left in a state?

Brian Berry, CEO of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) says that as the Election looms, the current Government appears to have abandoned the need for more homes, and calls for a dedicated Secretary of State for Housing.

Not long before the General Election date was announced as 4 July, the FMB launched its manifesto for the next Government. Unsurprisingly, one of our key asks was the need for more housing.

Without an adequate supply of new homes people can’t move freely, which stifles economic growth and opportunities. Our document calls on the new government to create a dedicated Secretary of State for Housing and end the merry-go-round of Housing Ministers.

Under the Conservatives, the current Housing brief exists as a junior Ministerial position, and is seen as a leg up to higher office. Surely, given the ongoing housing crisis, it needs to be a higher office, with a dedicated, strong voice at the Cabinet table. 

We were fortunate to have the current Housing Minister, Lee Rowley at our Manifesto launch, but despite our call, he remained somewhat tight lipped about the potential promotion on offer! Fortunately, the Minister did say that he agreed with a good deal of what was in the FMB Manifesto – maybe this request was one of them. 


Having put forward a plan to put housing on the top table in our manifesto, it was very disappointing when Labour leader Keir Starmer failed to include housing in his six ‘pledges for change.’ How can a country grow with too few homes, forcing more and more people to stay in unaffordable and often unhealthy rental accommodation.

Housing should be an easy win with the building industry and voters alike longing for a bold plan to deliver more homes. So, despite lofty pledges at the last Labour Party Conference housing for the time being seems to have been brushed to one side. 

One ray of light does however remain, with Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary for Housing, announcing that Labour has big ambitions for new towns, seemingly channelling the Labour Party of the post war years, when places like Basildon and Stevenage were born.

But let’s not forget the role of smaller housebuilders in all this. In the immediate post-war period, small builders played a much bigger role in housing delivery, helping to deliver the new towns and creating diversity in the housing stock.

Labour has the opportunity to make housing delivery an integral part of its election offer. Should it decide to do so it’s an opportunity for Labour to embrace local housebuilders to create the capacity that is needed to build the quality homes that are so desperately needed. Furthermore, local homes built by local builders offer the opportunity to transform regional economic growth across the country.

Biodiversity net gain scheme under fire 

Like much of the industry, I was concerned when I read the recent Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) scheme report from the National Audit Office (NAO). The report found substantial risks for the long-term effectiveness of the new BNG scheme, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) having failed to put all necessary elements in place ahead of launch.

The NAO’s criticism of Defra echoes the concerns that were raised by house-builders at the time. Small housebuilders were broadly supportive of the aims underpinning biodiversity net gain, but they have been warning that additional costs – and the underprepared nature of local authorities – will make it near impossible for smaller firms to manage. 

The Department’s acknowledgment that there had been mixed readiness among local authorities is a positive first step. Local authorities have been tasked with enforcing planning regulations at their own discretion, and Defra has said that it does not intend to provide central monitoring, which we feel seems like poor management of
the scheme.

Furthermore, the lack of involvement that Defra has in the biodiversity credit market is also extremely worrying, especially as smaller builders are more likely to need to offset biodiversity offsite. Unless these issues are addressed, BNG will continue to create substantial barriers to small housebuilders.