Cllr Paul Ellis, ARCH Chair and John Bibby, ARCH Chief
Executive, together with our colleagues from the National
Federation of Housing (NFA), Hugh Broadbent, NFA Chair and Chloe
Fletcher, NFA Policy Director, met with Housing Minister Gavin
Barwell MP at the Department for Communities and Local Government
(DCLG) on 21 November.
It was a very positive meeting where we discussed the role of
stock retained councils, ALMOs and local housing companions in
delivering new build across all tenures, the outstanding issues
from the Housing and Planning Act as well as the forthcoming
Housing White Paper.
The Minister advised us that a Written Ministerial Statement in Parliament on
pay to stay would be issued later that day and that he thought we
would view it as good news. He went on to say that there would be
further statements this week following the Autumn Statement and the
Housing White Paper would be published before the end of this
He also told us that the government were launching a consultation paper on the way forward for
supported housing and he was genuinely interested in all views so
that they can design a system for the future which delivers the
housing and support people need. This has seen been published - The
closing date is 13 February 2017 and we'll be collecting members'
views to feed back to the government.
We were not given any specific detail on the other outstanding
issues such as High Value Voids or flexible tenancies. However, the
Minister did say we could expect further announcements on these
matters after the Autumn Statement.
He outlined that the Housing White Paper will be focused on
increasing supply and will look to make it easier for councils to
make local plans, release more land and speed up the planning
process as well as encouraging a wider mix of developers and
builders into the market.
A separate Regeneration Strategy is due to come out shortly from
Lord Heseltine's Regeneration Team and they're looking separately
We all had the impression that the Housing Minister is taking
the time to listen to colleagues in the local authority sector
including the NFA, ARCH and the Local Government Association (LGA)
as well as individual councils on all of these issues. He said he
plans to get out and about and meet as many councils as possible in
the New Year once the White Paper has been published.
We emphasised that stock retained councils are keen to play
their part in supporting the government's ambition to increase
housing supply of all tenures. The Minister gave some encouraging
messages on the potential role of local authorities as providers
and suggested that the forthcoming White Paper will set out the
government's plans for increasing housing supply in more detail.
However, it was apparent that councils' shouldn't expect universal
lifting of debt caps or a return to massive council house building
The Minister is clearly still focussed on owner-occupation but
seems to recognise the need to increase supply across all tenures
and although it seems government will clearly look to the
Registered Providers to deliver affordable housing (because of the
private finance they can lever in), he does seem to recognise that
where appropriate councils may have a role in direct provision
alongside their strategic enabling role.
We also raised the possibility of discussions with the
Department on individual deals, for councils who want to build, on
things like the debt cap and although he has made no promises he
has encouraged us to send in some detail about our proposals to his
officials which we will be doing in due course.
Now that we've had a constructive initial discussion, ARCH and
the NFA are looking forward to developing a positive relationship
over the coming months and will endeavour to keep the lines of
communication open between the sector and the Minister in order to
help build that relationship and continue to make the case for