Since taking office, there’s one element of the coalition Government that has been none too shabby in getting to work on reforming things particularly in cutting bureaucracy and pointless governance ‘initiatives’ introduced by those reddest of red tape merchants, the prior Labour administration.
And these swiftest of changes hail from the department that most affects housing and the property market.
Eric Pickles MP, as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is the reformer in question. As one of the architects of the Conservative election campaign in his prior role as Party Chairman, its slogan being ‘Vote for Change’, he did indeed promise it and is not being slow in introducing it.
Within days of the ink drying on the Cameron Clegg partnership agreement, Pickles and his cohort Grant Shapps had suspended Home Information Packs with the intention of binning them altogether.
Days later he hit cash absorbing quangos and ‘millionaire’ housing association chief executives. He is taking a good look at entities such as the Thames Gateway Development Corporations too which seem to me to be money haemorrhaging giants that fumble from one unfulfilled project to the next, achieving little in return for the millions that tax payers have fed them.
Not resting on his substantial first fortnight’s efforts, Pickles then swiftly took on regional housing targets. He scrapped them in order to ensure that our green belt be better protected from sweeping, one size fits all diktats as set previously by regional assemblies.
In amongst pledges on addressing illegal traveller incursions, returning power to councils, getting rid of labour’s plans for bin taxes and so on, Pickles has also just announced that he is passing measures to cut up the rules that allow garden grabbing. This is the practice of ‘in fill’ so favoured by developers in tight urban areas in particular and which results in massive over concentration of housing where it was not designed to be.
So that was month one in office.
What do future months hold for Pickles and his common sense reforms we wonder?
Well, we hope the revamping of the way that affordable housing is delivered so that it becomes efficient and somewhere near sufficent at last? Altering the slow, unaccountable and ineffective process that exists now. See here.
The introduction of the Conservative’s ‘Open Source’ Planning paper, a community based approach to development control that puts decisions further into the hands of local people and elected councillors allowing specific areas to decide what they want and what they don’t want, as opposed to Whitehall telling them so.
Fingers crossed too for a legislative steer to the conveyancing process to prevent mischievous buyers and sellers pulling out of transactions on a whim? Improving the existing slow, stressful and uncertain method that hails from the middle ages. NO HIP REQUIRED.
Maybe a system of some form of light touch licensing or regulation for estate agents to ensure that they all actually know what they are doing and so that the consumer is properly protected from the ignorant and the unscrupulous?
Stamp duty reform (with the assistance of his Treasury colleagues) to ensure that fairness prevails rather than the current method of the various thresholds triggering tax at the higher rate on the entire purchase price. It’s only justifiable to charge the higher levy, if there should be one, over the higher threshold. Not on the whole lot. Should be just like income tax.
On initial form we have no doubt that Eric Pickles and his team will continue to make short work of doing what needs to be done in order to benefit the country’s housing issues, the property market and, consequently, the estate agency industry too. Together with a balance that will ensure that the aesthetic of our towns, cities and countryside be preserved.
We’ll be observing with interest, if we can keep up…