Sajid Javid – 2018 Statement on Northamptonshire County Council

Below is the text of the statement made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 27 March 2018.

Mr Speaker, with permission, I wish to make a statement about the independent inspection report on Northamptonshire County Council.

Everyone in this House, regardless of party, appreciates the crucial role that local government plays as the frontline of our democracy.

Delivering vital services on which we all depend and helping to create great places to live.

And, in doing so, making the most of every penny they receive from hard-pressed taxpayers to secure better outcomes.

All of which builds confidence and trust between local authorities and those they serve.

Which is why the situation in Northamptonshire is of such concern.

Prior to my instigation of the report, there were signs that Northamptonshire’s situation was deteriorating.

External auditors at Northamptonshire had lodged adverse value for money opinions in audit reports…

…suggesting that the council was not managing its finances appropriately.

The former leader resigning in May 2016, also signalled the need for change.

As late as last year, the Local Government Association conducted a financial Peer Review…

…which concluded there were issues with delivering the Next Generation reforms and, again, with the mismanagement of its finances.

The then Chief Executive Paul Blantern resigned in October 2017.

These reports, along with the concerns raised by district councils in Northamptonshire…

…and by Hon Members of this House with local constituencies…

…prompted me to act, as I was concerned that there were potentially fundamental issues within the authority.

On 9 January 2018, I informed the House that I had concerns regarding the financial management and governance of the council.

I therefore decided to exercise my powers under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999 to initiate a Best Value inspection of the council.

And I appointed Max Caller, an experienced former Chief Executive and Commissioner, to conduct this…

…and report on whether the council was complying with its Best Value duty.

Mr Caller submitted his report on 15 March.

And I placed a copy in the library of this House so that everyone could see what he had found and see his recommendations.

And before I go any further, I would like to thank Mr Caller, and his assistant inspector, Julie Parker…

…for their dedication and focus in conducting such a thorough and prompt review.

When I commissioned the Best Value inspection, I asked the Inspector to consider 4 things in particular:

First, whether the council has the right culture, governance and processes to make robust decisions…

…on resource allocation and to manage its finances effectively.

Second, whether the council allowed adequate scrutiny by councillors.

Third, whether there were strong processes and the right information available to managers and councillors…

…to underpin service management and spending decisions.

And fourth, whether the council was organised and structured appropriately to deliver value for money.

Mr Speaker, I have reflected on the contents of the Caller report.

It is balanced, it’s rooted in evidence and compelling.

The Inspector has identified multiple apparent failures by Northamptonshire County Council in complying with its Best Value Duty.

Failures on all counts.

Whilst I recognise that councils across England have faced many challenges in recent years, the Inspector is clear that…

… Northamptonshire’s failures are not down to a lack of funding or because it is being treated unfairly or is uniquely disadvantaged compared to other councils.

In fact, his report says that:

“for a number of years, NCC has failed to manage its budget and has not taken effective steps to introduce and maintain budgetary control”.

Furthermore, the complex structure of financial support meant oversight was difficult and accountability blurred.

This report says that Northamptonshire’s Next Generation approach – which envisaged outsourcing many of the council’s functions – had no:

“hard edged business plan or justification to support these proposals”.

This “…made it difficult to ensure a line of sight over costs and operational activity”…

…and “made it impossible for the council, as a whole to have any clarity or understanding as to what was going on”.

Similarly, the inspector found that Northamptonshire County Council used capital receipts to support revenue spend…

…without documentary evidence demonstrating compliance with the Statutory Guidance and Direction.

Furthermore, until this February, there was no report to full council on the proposed projects and their benefits.

He says that “Savings targets were imposed without understanding of demand, need or deliverability…

…and it is clear that some Chief Officers. did not consider that they were in any way accountable…

…for the delivery of savings that they had promoted.”

On the question of scrutiny, the report says that:

“The council did not respond well, or in many cases even react, to external and internal criticism…

…Individual councillors appear to have been denied answers to questions that were entirely legitimate to ask…

…and scrutiny arrangements were constrained by what was felt the NCC executive would allow.”

Mr Speaker, I want to emphasise that the report also indicates that the hardworking staff of Northamptonshire County Council…

…are not at fault and have worked hard to provide quality services.

With all of this mind, it is clear that I must consider whether further action is necessary to secure compliance with the Best Value duty.

In doing so, I want to reassure the residents of Northamptonshire that essential services will continue to be delivered.

The Inspector is clear that “the problems faced by NCC are now so deep and ingrained that it is not possible to promote a recovery plan…

… that could bring the council back to stability and safety in a reasonable timescale.”

He recommends that “a way forward, with a clean sheet, leaving all the history behind, is required”.

I am therefore minded to appoint Commissioners to oversee the Authority…

…using my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999.

From day 1, I propose that they take direct control over the council’s financial management and overall governance.

Getting these basics right must be the first step in stabilising this authority.

I also propose giving them reserved powers to act as they see fit across the entirety of the authority’s functions…

…if they consider that they must step in.

My officials are writing to the council and district councils today to this effect and they can make representations on my proposal.

I will consider any representations carefully before reaching a final decision.

The Caller report makes a clear recommendation on restructuring, and notes there are a number of options available.

So, in addition, I’m inviting Northamptonshire County Council and the district and borough councils in the area…

…to submit proposals on restructuring local government.

I would like those councils to think about what is right for their community and the people they serve…

…and to come forward with proposals.

This invitation and the letter to Northamptonshire that I mentioned earlier have been published today and copies placed in the Library.

It is clear to me that any proposals from the councils should seek to meet the criteria for local government restructuring…

…that I have previously shared with the House.

Namely, that proposals should:

improve local government

be based on a credible geography

and command a good deal of local support

I will be particularly interested in hearing how the councils have consulted with their communities…

…to ensure that Northamptonshire’s future is truly locally-led.

Mr Speaker, the findings of Mr Caller’s inspection report on Northamptonshire County Council are extremely serious.

Which is why this government is prepared to take decisive action…

…to ensure that local people receive the high quality services they need and deserve.

And to restore faith in local government in Northamptonshire.

I commend this Statement to the House.

Sajid Javid – 2010 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Sajid Javid in the House of Commons on 8 June 2010.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to make my maiden speech. I speak with a particular sense of humility after so many hon. Members have given such admirable maiden speeches, including that just made by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green).

I have some worthy predecessors. My immediate predecessor was Miss Julie Kirkbride. She was first elected in 1997, and she was a fine constituency MP. I will never forget the spontaneous tributes that people paid to her, when I knocked on their doors during the campaign, for all the work that she had done on their behalf. I should also like to express my gratitude to her two most recent predecessors, Mr Roy Thomason and Sir Hal Miller, who both helped me in my campaign with great advice.

Bromsgrove is a beautiful, traditional beacon of middle England. I know that many hon. Members have described their constituencies as beautiful, but Bromsgrove truly has breathtaking countryside. It is an old market town which was originally a bit of an industrial hub for the west midlands industrial complex. It still has a very active, traditional court-leet, with lovely traditions. In the east of the constituency we have many beautiful picture-postcard villages, including the glamorously named suburb of Hollywood.

Over the centuries, we have had many heroes from Bromsgrove. I should like to pay tribute on this occasion to two of the most recent-both teenagers, both soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment. The first, Private Robert Laws, was aged 18 when he lost his life fighting for our country in Helmand province last year. He had passed his training only six months previously. The second, Private Alex Kennedy, also aged 18, earlier this year became the youngest soldier since the second world war to receive the military cross. He fought hard to save the life of his commanding officer during a fierce battle with the Taliban. We must never forget the sacrifices that our soldiers-those who have served and those who are currently serving for us-make on our behalf.

A notable person from Bromsgrove is A. E. Housman, whose stirring prose reflected the rural beauty of the heart of England. In Bromsgrove we have a wonderful heritage in the English countryside, and that is why I want to make sure that it is the people who are most affected by planning decisions who make those decisions. That is why I welcome the recent announcements of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on that issue. They have been most welcomed by my constituents.

Perhaps at this point I should say something about my own background, as hon. Members may be able to tell from my appearance and my name that I can hardly be of traditional Worcestershire stock. My parents were both born in British India. Although my father was just six years old in 1947, he remembers full well the tragedy that occurred upon the partition of India-12 million people were displaced and almost a million lost their lives. If we need an example of how political failure can lead to great human tragedy, surely that is one of the most heart-wrenching, and an example of how politics can really make a difference. That is what I say to people who ask me why I gave up a lucrative career in finance to enter this House.

To the dismay of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), I have to tell him that for 19 years I have been an investment banker. In my case, this is one brain that was sucked up by the City and has now come to serve the people in this Parliament. I worked in London, Singapore and New York. I readily admit that being seen as an investment banker was not the most useful thing on the campaign trail, but it helped prepare me for a profession not well liked by the general public. Let us hope that all of us, on both sides of the House, can work together over the coming years to help restore the nation’s respect for our great Parliament.

In view of my background in finance, I am particularly pleased to give my maiden speech during this debate on economic affairs. There are many global economic uncertainties at the moment, and they have potentially grave consequences for our economy. First, the euro is only just beginning to have problems. It was always a political contrivance that had virtually nothing to do with economics. Secondly, the world’s largest emerging market economies, which have buttressed global demand since the onset of the credit crisis, are about to go through a period of monetary tightening, and we can no longer rely on them for global growth.

Thirdly, industrialised nations, including our own, that have issued vast amounts of sovereign debt over the past three years in particular can no longer go on that way. We have to make sure that when we look at these issues, we never forget the traditional disciplines that have stood Britain in good stead-sound public finances, low and simple taxation, and light and flexible regulation. It is when we forget these disciplines that we put our future prosperity at risk.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me this opportunity, and thank you to the people of Bromsgrove for allowing me to serve them in this Chamber.

Sajid Javid – 2018 Update on the Grenfell Tragedy

Below is the text of the statement made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 22 March 2018.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement to update the House on support for those affected by the Grenfell tragedy and on the second report from the independent recovery taskforce. This report will be published in full on gov.uk and placed in the Library of the House.

Nine months on, the shocking and terrible events of 14 June continue to cast a long shadow. I know that it cannot have been easy for the survivors and the bereaved to hear last week about the failure of a fire door from the tower, which was tested as part of the Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation. I am confident that the police and the public inquiry will, in time, provide answers. But, having met survivors and heard their stories, I know that that does not take away from the pain and loss being suffered now by those left behind. Their welfare remains our highest priority, and we see that through our continued work supporting the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and through the valuable work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), the Minister responsible for the Grenfell victims. We are ensuring that the voices and concerns are heard right across Government. That work is supported by my Department and, more widely, by the NHS, by local government and by the voluntary sector.

I give my thanks to everyone who has gone that extra mile to be there for a community that has gone through so much. I also thank the taskforce for its work in helping us to ensure that, after the slow and confused initial response to the disaster, the people of North Kensington are receiving better support from RBKC to help them to recover and to rebuild their lives.

I was clear when I reflected on the taskforce’s first report in November that, while progress was being made, I expected to see swift, effective action to address all the issues that were highlighted, particularly the slow pace of delivery and the need for greater empathy and emotional intelligence—two things that are vital if RBKC is to regain the trust of the people that it serves.

My Department has been working closely with RBKC throughout to provide the support and challenge necessary to drive this work. I am pleased to see, from the taskforce’s second report, that some important progress has been made. RBKC, alongside the Government, has put in significant resources and increased its efforts to provide those affected with greater clarity about the support that is available to them. We have also seen a stronger focus on implementing new ways of working to drive much needed cultural change across the council in collaboration with external stakeholders, and a greater candour about the improvements that still need to be made. But there is much more to do to ensure that residents can see and feel that things are getting better on the ground. Nowhere is this more important than the vital task of rehousing those who lost their homes—a task that I have always been clear must be sensitive to individual needs, but not use these needs as an excuse to justify any type of delay.

Five months on from the fire, at the time of the taskforce’s first report, 122 households out of a total of 204 had accepted an offer of temporary or permanent ​accommodation. Only 73 households had moved in, and only 26 of those had moved into permanent homes. Today I can report that 188 households have accepted an offer of accommodation. Just over two thirds of these—128 households—have already moved into new accommodation, including 62 into permanent homes. This is welcome news but, as the taskforce’s second report highlights, progress has been far too slow.

It was always going to be a challenge to respond to an unprecedented tragedy on this scale and to secure new accommodation in one of the country’s most expensive locations, but progress has not been made as quickly as it should have been. There are still 82 households in emergency accommodation, including 15 in serviced apartments, with 25 families and 39 children among them. This is totally unacceptable. The suffering that these families have already endured is unimaginable. Living for this long in hotels can only make the process of grieving and recovery even harder. As the taskforce has said, it is unlikely that all households will be permanently rehoused by the one-year anniversary of the fire. This is clearly not good enough. I hoped to have seen much more progress. It is very understandable that the people of North Kensington will feel disappointed and let down, even if there are encouraging signs that the pace of rehousing is speeding up.

The council now has over 300 properties that are available to those who lost their homes, so each household can now choose a good quality property that meets their needs, with the option of staying in the area if that is what they wish. To ensure that these homes are taken up, I expect all households, regardless of their level of engagement, to be given whatever support they require to be rehoused as quickly as possible. The Government will continue to play their part, providing help with rehousing and other support for survivors, including financial support currently worth more than £72 million. The weeks ahead will be critical for ensuring that efforts to rehouse survivors go up a gear. I will be closely monitoring progress and will of course keep the House updated.

As I said earlier, if the council is to regain trust it is paramount that the Grenfell community is not just being told that things are changing, but can see that its views and concerns are being heard and acted on. A good example of this, as highlighted by the report, is the transfer of responsibilities from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation to RBKC on an interim basis. This happened after residents made it clear that the tenant management organisation could no longer have a role, not only on the Lancaster West estate but more widely in housing management throughout the borough.

Residents have been engaged in the process of refurbishing the Lancaster West estate, with the Government matching the £15 million that the council is investing in this programme. Alongside this, the council will shortly be consulting residents on the long-term delivery of housing management needs across the borough. The voices and needs of the residents will also be at the heart of the process to determine the future of the Grenfell site and the public inquiry, which has just begun its second procedural hearing.

There must be an even stronger focus on needs as we step up efforts not just to rehouse survivors, but to help them to rebuild their lives and, vitally, to rebuild trust. ​It is a process that will clearly take time and unstinting commitment on all sides. As the taskforce has noted, some progress has been made, but there is no room for complacency. I expect the council to take on board the taskforce’s recommendations and do more to listen to the community, improve links with the voluntary sector and act on feedback that it gets from those on the frontline.

I thank the members of the taskforce once again for their valuable contribution, which will continue for as long as it is needed. As they have noted, despite the many challenges, there is

“a level of community spirit and attachment not often seen in local communities in London”.

It is a dynamic and diverse community spirit made stronger during the darkest of days—a spirit that is determined to secure a brighter future for the people of North Kensington. We share that determination and will continue to work with the bereaved, survivors and others. I commend this statement to the House.

Sajid Javid – 2018 Statement on Local Government Finance

Below is the text of the statement made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 20 March 2018.

The current 50% business rates retention scheme for local government is yielding strong results. Local authorities estimate that in 2017-18 ​they will keep around £1.3 billion in business rates growth, which we expect will be at least maintained into 2018-19 and 2019-20. On top of the 50% business rates retention scheme which is in place for all local authorities, in 2017-18 the Government established pilots of 100% business rates retention in five areas of England and extended business rates retention to 67% in London. The pilot programme will be expanded further in 2018-19 to cover an additional 10 areas.

My officials have worked through the necessary calculations to prepare for the extension of the piloting programme in 2018-19. In doing so, an historic error has been identified in the methodology used to calculate the sums due to pilots. An adjustment is therefore required to the methodology, which will reduce the amount due to these local authorities for participating in the pilot programme to the correct level. This adjustment does not affect the local government finance settlement nor the core spending power of the local authorities concerned. The relevant local authorities have been informed today.

Background

Under the business rates retention system, local authorities retain a percentage of the business rates they raise locally. Since 2014-15, locally-raised business rates have been lower than they would have been because Government have under-indexed the business rates multiplier in each of 2014-15, 2015-6 and 2018-19. To compensate local authorities for their loss of income, therefore, the Government have calculated the extent of the loss caused by under-indexation and paid that amount as a grant under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003.

The compensation to be paid to local authorities is paid on account during the course of a year, based on estimates made by authorities before the start of that year. It is then adjusted once outturn figures are available, following the end of the year.

When on account compensation payments were calculated for the six 2017-18 pilot areas, the methodology used to adjust tariffs and top-ups contained an error. This resulted in 27 local authorities and the Greater London Authority being over-compensated by £36 million.

These local authorities will have been operating on the understanding that this funding has already been secured and, at this this late stage in the year, a sudden reduction in their funding could potentially have an impact on the delivery of the objectives agreed as part of their devolution deals. Therefore, although the rules of “Managing Public Money” indicate that the Department should recover the overpayment, I have issued a direction requesting that the permanent secretary does not do so in this extraordinary circumstance. My correspondence with the permanent secretary will be published on the Department’s website.

In respect of the payments due to 2018-19 business rates retention pilot authorities, my Department will use the corrected methodology to calculate the section 31 grant compensation due to authorities. Local authorities will shortly be notified of these amounts.

Review

In recognition of the importance of the business rates retention system to the sustainability of local government, I am also today announcing an independent review of the internal processes and procedures that underpin the ​Department’s oversight of business rates and related systems. This should include modelling and analytical work, how officials manage the interface with policy decision making, and resourcing and skills.

Sajid Javid – 2018 Speech on Housing

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on 5 March 2018.

Everyone remembers their childhood home.

Mine was the flat above the family shop.

With my parents – who had come to Britain from Pakistan with almost nothing – and my 4 brothers.

Nothing fancy, but an important rung on the ladder for our family.

I won’t lie.

It was a struggle at times, with the 7 of us sharing 2 bedrooms.

And my mum and dad – like so many immigrants before and since – working all hours to make our money go further.

But it was nonetheless a stable, loving home that gave us all a great start…

…a start that’s undoubtedly the reason that I’m standing here today.

And I never forget that.

We didn’t have many luxuries, but I could count on having a safe, warm place to play – and fight! – with my brothers.

Do my homework. Enjoy family meals and fun times together.

I know how lucky I am.

And how, today, there are many families and other people who are not so fortunate.

Who are growing up without that strong foundation because, over the years, we’ve simply failed to build enough homes.

The result – soaring house prices and rents – has effectively locked a generation out of the housing market.

Which is why – as the Prime Minister has just said – this government is taking urgent action on all fronts to turn this situation around.

Work that is starting to pay off.

Since 2010, we have delivered more than a million homes.

And thanks to your efforts, we’ve seen 217,350 homes added to our housing stock last year.

The highest level of net additions in all but one of the last 30 years.

We’ve also helped hundreds of thousands of people on to the housing ladder through Help to Buy.

We’re cracking down on rogue landlords, abuse of leaseholds, taking steps to make renting fairer and tackle homelessness through earlier intervention.

We’re working to encourage landlords to offer longer, family friendly tenancies.

We’ve launched a new, more assertive national housing agency, Homes England.

And we are putting billions into affordable housing and delivering essential infrastructure through the Housing Infrastructure Fund.

But there’s still a long way to go to deliver 300,000 homes a year in England by the middle of the next decade.

Your role as planners and developers is absolutely vital in helping us get there.

I often say that local government is the frontline of our democracy.

If that’s true, then you, as planners, are in many ways the frontline of our housing challenge.

Informing crucial decisions that give the go ahead for new homes.

Ensuring that these are supported by the right infrastructure.

Doing the best for your local areas and creating, quite simply, great places to live.

Places that will still be here in a hundred years’ time as well-established and much-loved parts of the community.

So the part that you play in helping us turn the consultations we’re launching today…

… on the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the reform of developer contributions…

…into more homes and stronger communities could not be more important.

These measures implement the planning policy reforms in:

– last February’s Housing white paper

– in the Planning for the right homes in the right places consultation in September

– those announced at Budget

– and some further reforms

And set out a bold, comprehensive approach for building more homes, more quickly, in the places people want to live.

Homes that embody quality and good design.

That people are happy to live in – and happy to live next door to.

Knowing that there’s the infrastructure to support them.

As we all know, this point about getting communities on board is vital if we’re to deliver homes at the scale and pace that’s needed.

So how are the proposed changes going to help us achieve this?

And what are they going to mean for you in practical terms?

I know that many of you have been keenly anticipating the answers to these questions.

And have wanted greater clarity and certainty, so that you can make a real difference in your communities.

And that’s exactly what our reforms deliver.

A simpler, more robust system that sets much clearer expectations – for local authorities and developers alike…

…about meeting your commitments – unlocking land, fulfilling planning permissions and providing essential infrastructure.

And a system that, frankly, tolerates fewer excuses for failures to deliver.

Starting first with the revision of the National Planning Policy Framework…

This implements around 80 reforms announced last year.

There’s still quite a lot in there that you’ll recognize, with a continued emphasis on development that’s sustainable and led locally.

But the changes it does propose are significant.

Offering councils flexibility to build more.

But also greater responsibility for really delivering for their communities.

Which means, firstly, working with your communities to get plans in place as quickly as possible…

…so that development is dictated by what local people want and not by speculative applications.

In many ways, these proposals will make this process of putting together a plan much easier.

For the first time, all local authorities will be expected to assess housing need using the same methodology…

…a big improvement on the current situation where different councils calculate housing need in different ways…

…with expensive, or time wasting consulting and opaque methodology.

I know that this issue – of how we establish what numbers of homes we need and where – has become muddied at times.

Ultimately, we must be guided by where people want to live.

And a standardized approach will help us do this – by establishing a level playing field and giving us a much clearer…

…more transparent understanding of where the need for housing is most acute.

Areas will also be able to agree a 5-year land supply position for a year…

…reducing the need for costly planning appeals involving speculative applications.

But perhaps one of the biggest shifts is a change in culture.

Towards outcomes achieved – the number of homes delivered– rather than on processes like planning permissions

And as it becomes easier to make plans more streamlined and strategic…

…this culture change will also encourage authorities to work together to meet their communities’ needs.

I know that many of you will already be doing this – and you are to be commended for it.

It’s now time for others to follow your example.

The standardised formula is a guide to planning the minimum number of homes that are needed.

But ambitious councils, who have clear and robust plans for growth, may want to plan for more.

Indeed, this kind of ambition is key to unlocking housing deals that support growth at a strategic level so that they’re not just delivering new homes but creating communities.

And it’s because we want to champion this ambition that we’re going further.

Councils will have much more scope to make the most of existing land, thanks to extra reform beyond those previously consulted on.

These include an even stronger drive for increasing density -particularly in areas where housing need is high…

…and supporting authorities to build upwards.

But not, I must stress, at the expense of quality – with high design standards that communities are happy to embrace remaining a priority.

You only have to look at mews street developments such as The Echoes in Thurrock and Goldsmith Street in Norwich…

…or urban mansion blocks and traditional terraces to see that well-designed homes with high densities come in all shapes and sizes.

These reforms also include more flexibility to develop brownfield land in the Green Belt…

…to meet affordable housing need where there is no substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt.

Now I know that even the mention of the words “Green Belt” may cause some concern in some quarters.

This is about building homes on sites that have been previously developed – not about, in any way, undermining the Green Belt.

Our green spaces are precious and deserve our protection.

Which is why for example the government is delivering on its manifesto commitment to give stronger protection to ancient woodland.

Safeguarding assets that cannot be replaced for generations to come.

And ensuring that planning policies promote net gains for biodiversity, including strengthening networks of habitats.

So there are unprecedented opportunities here – to not only improve the environment, but to deliver the homes we need.

With ambitious planners and local authorities leading the way.

And with developers also stepping up – to help close the gap between planning permissions granted and homes built.

Knowing what contributions they’re expected to make towards affordable housing and essential infrastructure…

…and, vitally, knowing that local authorities can hold them to account.

Unfortunately, we all know of instances where developers make these promises and later claim they can’t afford them.

This is totally unacceptable.

It cheats communities of much-needed housing and infrastructure and gives new development a bad name.

Which is why we’re addressing this issue head on in our consultations, with proposals for reforms to the system.

These include a new approach to developer contributions – so that everyone is clear about what affordable housing and infrastructure will underpin new development.

More standardised viability assessments and greater transparency.

Leaving developers in no doubt of what’s expected to them

In no doubt that councils will hold them to their commitments.

And leaving communities in no doubt that that their needs will be met.

We will also be looking at what more we can do to support build out informed by Sir Oliver Letwin’s independent review…

…into the gap between planning permissions granted and homes built – which is due to report by this year’s Autumn Budget

And there’s the potential, over the long term, for more, significant reform of developer contributions.

And there are also other areas in which we’re ready to go further to take the delivery of housing up a gear.

Including a new permitted development right for building upwards to provide new homes.

Finding more effective ways of bringing agricultural land forward for housing.

And ensuring that swift and fair decisions are made at appeal.

That’s why I will shortly announce an end-to end review of the planning inquiries process.

This review will have one objective: to determine what it would take to halve the time for an inquiry on housing supply to be determined…

…ensuring swift and fair decisions are made

So with a strong focus, throughout, we’re leaving no stone unturned to meet everyone’s housing needs.

Be that:

– implementing an exception site policy to help more people onto the housing ladder

– promoting Build to Rent

– giving older people a better choice of accommodation

– encouraging local policies for affordable homes catering for essential workers, such as nurses and police

So with all these tools at your disposal, there’s no time to lose in getting your plans in place and really delivering for your communities.

You’ll have heard me express my frustration about some local planning authorities that are still lagging behind on this score.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these plans are absolutely key to helping us build the right homes in the right places.

So it’s vital that you get them in place quickly and keep them up to date to ensure that permissions turn into homes.

The alternative – speculative development and neighbourhoods that are poorly planned, lacking strong communities – is something that none of us want to see.

The truth is that, for too long, we’ve failed to plan for the future.

To really get to grips with the number of homes we need.

Whether we’re building them in the places where people want to live.

Whether they’re of the right type – and serving the families, young people, older generations…

And whether they’re of the right quality and in keeping with the local area.

We need to think big about the kind of communities we want to live in, not just now, but for years to come.

That changes today with the reforms we’re proposing to the NPPF and developer contributions.

Measures that raise the game in every regard to get Britain building as never before.

Starting this summer, when we’ll begin implementing the new Framework.

Help us build a better system.

A system that ensures that everyone – councils, developers, local communities – knows where they stand.

Knows what’s expected of them.

And knows what they need to do to deliver the great homes and the stronger communities that the people of this country need and deserve.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2018 Speech at Midlands Engine Investment Fund

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on 22 February 2018.

Thanks, Nick, it’s a pleasure to be here.

In the very heart of the Midlands Engine.

And a nearly a year on from the launch of our Midlands Engine Strategy.

We’ve achieved great things over the last 12 months, including:

– announcing a new East Midlands Manufacturing Zone pilot
– agreeing a second devolution deal with the West Midlands Combined Authority
– launching an ambitious Industrial Strategy – with opportunities for the region to boost productivity and skills

But there’s much more to come.

We’re committed to making the Midlands a powerful engine for economic growth.

When we say we’ll build an economy that works for everyone; we mean it.

But, to just step back a bit, if you can put your money into anything, anywhere in the world – why would you invest in the UK today?

Why the Midlands?

Well, we all know that Midlanders are very grounded people.

It’s where Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity after all.

And very sensible.

It’s where John Cadbury invented my favourite chocolate.

And if there’s anywhere that shows that something small can be mighty.

It’s the Midlands.

Where the Mini Cooper was invented.

Where Tolkien dreamed up the hobbits.

Where 27,000 Midlands business – many of which are small enterprises – exported £47.5 million of goods globally.

It’s an exciting time for the Midlands Engine.

In December, Coventry was awarded UK City of Culture 2021.

And Birmingham announced as the hosts of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Derbyshire, too, is set to showcase the marvels of Midlands’ manufacturing at a new museum where it all started…

…on the site of the world’s first ever factory.

We want to harness its huge potential and help give small firms across the Midlands that much needed boost to grow their business.

To generate jobs to benefit the whole Midlands and, ultimately, the British economy.

Which continues to confound the pessimists.

With growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 upgraded to 1.9%.

More people in work than ever before.

And interest rates remaining low.

Giving British businesses a great opportunity to grow – and those who invest in them, a great return.

Investing in the UK, and The Midlands Engine, is a no-brainer.

Because the ‘heart of England’ is just that – the lifeblood powering this country’s prosperity…

…not to mention innovation, culture and even cuisine.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m a proud Midlands’ MP. It’s the land of Shakespeare and the steam engine.

Charles Darwin and Rolls Royce.

Newton and Nightingale.

Wedgwood and Walkers Crisps.

And, of course, that most English of dishes – the balti!

Yet, too often these strengths go unsung and are overshadowed by our preoccupation with the North / South divide.

But it’s Birmingham – where we are today – not somewhere in the North or the South – that is England’s second city.

And it’s the Midlands’ regional economy that’s worth more than £230 billion – larger than countries such as Denmark.

An economy that boasts over 14% of the UK’s high-growth businesses.

That’s underpinned by a prime central location – within easy reach of London and the UK’s Northern heartlands.

And by excellent transport links.

A road and rail network that connects the Midlands with the rest of the country…

…with the new HS2 route set to cut journey times dramatically.

As well as 2 international airports that connect the region to Europe and the world.

Then there are its many universities, with their cutting-edge research and teaching excellence.

And with people under 20 making up a quarter of the region’s population, its young, dynamic workforce.

So the economic case for the Midlands is clear.

Which brings us to the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.

Why this fund and why now?

Because it’s not just the small businesses in line for funding who’ll benefit.

The growth and the jobs they generate, as a result, will benefit the entire Midlands – and, ultimately, the British economy.

So we all have an interest in supporting them and seeing them succeed.

And ensuring that every single part of the UK can play to its strengths and spread prosperity …

…something which is absolutely central to our Industrial Strategy and creating a country that works for everyone.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is doing just that…

…which is why, as the Midlands Engine Ministerial Champion, I’m proud to give it the government’s full backing.

As you know, the fund is the result of investment and collaboration involving many players…

– my department and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
– the British Business Bank
– Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)
– the West Midlands Mayor and business leaders
– and also European funding

And I want to thank everyone involved – many of you who are here today…

…who have helped forge these strong partnerships at a national and local level.

We can see these efforts starting to pay off…

…with the first companies to receive small business loans and debt finance under phase one of the fund already reaping the rewards.

These include Direct Digital Controls, in the West Midlands.

A business that specialises in installing and maintaining energy and environmental control systems.

Thanks to investment from the fund, it’s expanding. It’s now set to take on four new employees and train an additional apprentice.

There’s Olberon, a medical devices company, based in Nottingham.

Finance from the fund will have a huge impact on its international commercial sales…

…by allowing the firm to develop existing links with distributors and market its products more effectively.

And also BCME, owner of specialist education provider – Echo Factor – in Leicester…

…which will use the fund’s support to maximise student numbers and become more self-sustaining.

And, Renewable ON Ltd, a clean energy lighting specialist, from Milton Keynes.

The loan funds it has received will go towards cash flow including stock, wages and marketing to fulfil initial orders.

Many of these sorts of small companies struggle to access the financial support they need from mainstream lenders…

…because they don’t meet conventional criteria on security or risk.

The Midlands Engine Investment Funding ensures that they will finally get this help…

…and be able to grow, generate jobs and realise their untapped potential.

But, as I said earlier, these ripples of prosperity will spread far beyond those who receive the funding.

And we can already see evidence of this, with an increased buzz around business start-ups…

…stronger SME growth and improving business confidence.

All of which are fuelling a greater demand for external finance.

And I expect this momentum to build following today’s launch of the Fund’s remaining equity and proof of concept funds.

Funds that will back the Midlands’ most innovative small companies – start-ups, scale-ups and everything in between – to succeed.

That will support them to work with our top universities.

That will help them develop and test pioneering technologies, processes and products and bring them to market.

And provide venture capital to realise the ambitions of our high-growth companies.

Having spent 19 years in finance – including in private equity and investments…

…I know, first-hand, what a difference this investment in ground-breaking ideas and technology will make.

Putting the Midlands on track to create the word-class companies of the future.

So, with over £250 million now available – and these funds being matched pound for pound by investment from the private sector…

…there’s a huge prize at stake.

A boost for around 1,500 SMEs across the Midlands.

An estimated 3,800 jobs created as a result.

And, vitally, a return that will be ploughed back into the region to drive growth in years to come. I know that these companies’ ambitions – and those of the Midlands’ business sector, as a whole – know no bounds.

And neither do ours.

Which is why Sir John and I undertook a trade mission to China last November to promote closer business links with the Midlands Engine.

This was a great success, with 18 Midlands’ companies from a variety of sectors taking part.

And lots of interest and enthusiasm generated among Chinese businesses and potential investors…

…some of whom are in active discussions about future trade and investment prospects in the Midlands.

We’re now looking to follow this up with a Midlands Engine trade mission to India later this year.

I know that you’re thinking…

…but this is not a showdown between whether Birmingham or Mumbai does the best curries!

There can only be one winner in that contest – clearly those that my mum makes!

We’re going all out to spread the world overseas about the Midlands Engine and the endless opportunities it offers.

Because the Midlands…

…it’s dynamic businesses and talented, hard-working people…

…are, without doubt, up there with the best in the world.

With an illustrious past that few countries can match, never mind regions.

And, with the Midlands Engine Investment Fund delivering more jobs, growth and productivity…

…an even more exciting future ahead.

Sajid Javid – 2018 Speech to the Holocaust Educational Trust

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to the Holocaust Educational Trust on 16 January 2018.

Last October at the Holocaust Educational Trust Appeal Dinner, I sat next to a man named Harry Spiro.

Unfortunately, Harry couldn’t be here today but he was just 8 years old in 1939 when war broke out in Poland.

By 1945, aged just 14, he was the only member of his family to still be alive.

That evening, Harry told me his story.

In 1942, Harry was working in a factory in his home town of Piotrkow, when the call came from the Nazis for the workers to gather outside the nearby synagogue.

Harry didn’t want to go, but his mother – anticipating that things were about to get much worse – insisted.

As she pushed him out, she said: “Hopefully one of us will survive.”

Tragically, she – and the rest of Harry’s family – were murdered at Treblinka.

But her words – and their message of hope and endurance through the darkest times – live on.

They live on through Harry, who survived a death march that killed 2,300 of the 3,000 who set off.

Her words live on through Harry’s children and grandchildren.

And through Harry’s exceptional work on Holocaust education, work for which he has just been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

An honour he shares with Freda, another extraordinary survivor, who has just spoken so movingly.

My warmest congratulations to them both.

And now stories like Freda’s and Harry’s are inspiring a whole new generation through the work of fantastic young HET ambassadors, like Georgia (Adkins).

Thank you for everything you’re doing to keep these stories, these words, alive.

They matter immensely.

We know, particularly from the world of instant of communication on social media how words can entertain us, educate us, unite us, and uplift us.

But, also, how they can wound and divide.

How they can inflame prejudice in echo chambers where ignorance goes unchallenged.

How they can drive people towards hatred and even violence.

So it’s fitting that this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day asks us to consider the power of words.

The Holocaust Educational Trust has never shied away from teaching young people where hatred, intolerance and misinformation can lead.

The way we use words and language is key to this.

Which is why the government has been proud to support HET’s vital work through initiatives such as the Lessons from Auschwitz programme.

This programme has enabled thousands of children and their teachers to understand a little of what it meant to live through.

What Harry Spiro described to me, as “hell on earth”.

In 2011, I was privileged to accompany a group from my constituency to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

The hateful inscription on the gate might be familiar, but there are no words to convey the feeling when you walk inside.

Of imagining all the men, women and children who perished there and whose cries were silenced forever.

Cries – against hatred, intolerance and misinformation – that we must ensure are heard.

We all have a duty to speak out in their memory.

Of course, Holocaust education is not the only answer.

But it remains one of the most powerful tools we have to fight bigotry today.

That’s why I am delighted to announce today that my Ministry – together with the Department for Education – will fund a new strand of the Lessons from Auschwitz programme.

A new initiative, proposed by HET and the Union of Jewish Students, to tackle antisemitism, prejudice and intolerance on university campuses.

I know this is something that the Trust has been keen to get off the ground.

And Karen – as anyone who knows her well will agree – is someone you do not turn down or disagree with!

So I hope this will be welcome news.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Karen and everyone at the Trust for their tireless dedication to Holocaust education.

The programme will invite 2 Sabbatical Officers from each university to visit the death camps.

Vice-Chancellors will also be encouraged to take part.

I look forward to seeing how this work proceeds and the difference it makes.

HET’s work is invaluable and I’m honoured to be associated with it.

Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I have seen it works.

I remember Harry telling me about a visit to a school in London’s East End.

When a pupil refused to attend his Holocaust presentation because he didn’t want to, in the words of that pupil, “hear from Jews.”

Harry refused to deliver his talk unless the young man was present.

And so he was persuaded, reluctantly, to attend Harry’s talk.

That same young man later wrote to him and said it was one of the most moving experiences of his life.

So much so, he was inspired to become a passionate champion of greater tolerance and understanding among his peers.

So our efforts to tell stories like Harry’s, to challenge antisemitism wherever it exists, are absolutely crucial.

Not just now, but for future generations.

This is the thinking behind our commitment to build a new national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.

Its presence, right next to the Houses of Parliament, will ensure that the testimony of survivors will never be forgotten in Britain.

That the message of hope and a better future…

…whispered from a mother to son all those years ago…

…serves as a beacon for centuries to come.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2018 Speech to the LGA Local Government Finance Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the LGA Local Government Finance Conference on 9 January 2018.

Thank you, Gary, and good afternoon everybody. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s been a busy start back since the New Year!

It’s great to see the Local Government Association back home at Smith Square. As I said when I helped with the reopening, I got a little paranoid when you moved to the other side of London right after I arrived just around the corner!

But it’s also good to have you back here in the heart of Westminster because that is where local government deserves to be. You’re not the junior partner, a democratic afterthought. You’re a vital part of British life, as important as any ministry, playing a huge and growing role in the daily lives of millions of people.

Speaking of ministries, as you know, my department has a new name – the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. A name that reflects the fact that this government is absolutely committed to building the homes our country so desperately needs.

I’m delighted to have been reappointed to lead on this. I’ve been clear that fixing our broken housing market is my number one priority. Great places for people to live and put down roots.

I recognise that local government has a vital role in helping us deliver on this.

The people of this country rely on you, put their faith in you. And you, in turn have to be able to put your faith in central government. You have to know that we’re here for you, that we’re standing up for you, that we’re doing all we can to get you the resources that you need.

That’s why, in the 5 years to 2020, we’re giving English councils access to more than £200 billion in funding. And that’s why, through our reforms to business rates, we’re giving you greater freedom to raise and retain revenue in your areas.

After all, you know your communities better than anyone else. You understand the challenges, the pressures, the opportunities and more. And if you’re going to really make the most of that knowledge, you need the freedom and flexibility to be truly local government, not merely local administration.

That’s the thinking behind this year’s finance settlement. Now, I know that last month’s draft wasn’t greeted with wild enthusiasm in the sector. Mind you, I don’t think ANY local government finance settlement has ever been greeted with wild enthusiasm!

This year’s was particularly special. I had one of those days when the press office phone up and say “Well, Secretary of State, the good news is you’ve made the front pages…”

Unfortunately I wasn’t here before lunch to hear my Labour counterpart’s verdict, so I’m going to assume he warmly welcomed the whole package… Is that right? I know he’s a big fan of mine!

But look, it’s important to remember that this is part of a broader and continuing process to establish what local government needs to continue to deliver excellent public services. There are plenty of discussions still to be had, I know the incoming Local Government Minister will be doing little else over the next month or so. Building on the excellent work that Marcus Jones has already done over the last 3 years. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all of his work, and to reassure you, that he will still be working with local government in his new role.

So I’m going to run through some of the highlights of the settlement, talk a little about what we’re doing and why. And then I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say, hearing your thoughts.

Local government finance settlement

I’ll start with the future of the whole system of local government finance. Over the years, the current formula of budget allocations has served councils and residents well.

But we live in a changing world. Shifts in demographics, lifestyles and technology lead to changes in the different pressures facing different councils, and new risks emerge all the time What’s right today may not be right tomorrow, and the system of financing local government needs to reflect that, and help manage risks as well as providing opportunities.

We need an updated and more responsive way of distributing funding. One that gives councils the confidence to face the challenges and opportunities of the future. That’s why I was pleased to launch a formal consultation on a review of relative needs and resources. It’s not just a paper exercise, it’s going to be used to create a whole new system, one that more fairly reflects modern needs. And I hope to have that system in place in 2020 to 2021.

We’re building a country fit for the future, and this review will ensure we have a local government finance system that’s also suited to the challenges and opportunities of the years ahead.

Alongside the new methodology, in 2020 to 2021 we will also be implementing the latest phase of our business rates retention programme, a scheme that gives local councils the incentives they need to grow their local economies.

As you know, our aim is for local authorities to retain 75% of business rates from 2020 to 2021. That will be through incorporating existing grants into business rates retention including Revenue Support Grant and the Public Health Grant. And you’ll be able to keep 75% of the growth in your business rates from the new baselines in 2020 to 2021, when the system is reset. And we will continue to work with you to identify other opportunities to increase business rates retention further when it is right to do so.

Business rates retention encourages growth in your local economies. So it’s no surprise that our 100% retention pilots have proved so popular with councils. We were originally planning on running an extra 5 pilots in 2018 to 2019, but when we asked councils to apply to take part we were almost overwhelmed by the reaction. More than 200 authorities put themselves forward.

Picking just 5 areas was never going to be easy, which is why we’re now going to do 10 pilots instead, covering 89 authorities. The 10 that we’ve selected, taken alongside the existing pilots, give a broad geographic spread. North and south, urban and rural, small and large. This is no accident, we want to see exactly how the system works in all circumstances, and the pilots will make sure that happens.

The expansion of the pilots – and our plan to do more piloting in 2019 to 2020 – is a great example of this government listening to local councils and responding to what we hear.

And that has also been the driving force behind a number of other elements in the settlement.

For example, rural councils have expressed concern about the fairness of the current system, with the Rural Services Delivery Grant due to be reduced next year. In response to that, we’re increasing Rural Services Delivery Grant by £15 million in 2018/19 so that the total figure remains at £65 million for the remainder of the 4-year settlement.

We’ve also responded to concerns about proposed changes to the New Homes Bonus. To date we have made almost £7 billion in NHB payments to reward the building of 1.4 million homes. Over £946 million in NHB payments will be allocated in 2018 to 2019, rewarding local authorities for their work in fixing our broken housing market.

It has been a huge success, but I’m a hard man to please, I always want to know if we can do even better. That’s why, last year, I asked the sector for its views on proposals to link NHB payments to the number of successful planning appeals, further rewarding councils who don’t let the bureaucracy slow down housing growth.

But the appetite for change wasn’t there. The sector wanted continuity and certainty and that’s what it’s getting, no changes to the NHB this year and a baseline maintained at 0.4%.

Then there’s “negative RSG”. I know this has been a concern for several of you over the past few months, it’s something that crops up again and again in my regular meetings with councillors from right across the country.

Although we won’t see the effects until 2019 to 2020 I want all of you to know that it is on the radar and it is being looked at. My department is developing fair and affordable options for dealing with the issue. We’ll be formally consulting on these in the spring, so that we have plenty of time to reflect on what you tell us ahead of next year’s settlement.

Of course, I couldn’t talk about local government finance and not mention social care. It’s one of the biggest single issue facing councils today, one of the biggest challenges facing the whole country in fact. That’s why, over the past 12 months, we’ve put billions of pounds of extra funding into the sector.

At Spring Budget, an additional £2 billion was announced for adult social care over the next 3 years. And with the freedom to raise more money more quickly through the use of the social care precept that I announced this time last year, we have given councils have access to £9.25 billion more dedicated funding for adult social care over 3 years.

Since 2014 the government has also invested more than £200 million in innovation and improvement in Children’s Social Care, and before Christmas I announced an additional £19 million to support councils develop their capacity to care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The detailed allocations, together with the successful proposals for supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children that will receive Controlling Migration Fund money, will be announced shortly.

I know you’d like me to stand here today and say I’m turning on the spending taps, writing the big cheques, throwing taxpayers’ money at the problem. But this is a long-term challenge. The challenge of social care is not going to go away. We need long-term systemic change. And I very much hope that this summer’s green paper on future challenges within adult social care will set us on the path to securing that.

Finally, of course, there is Council Tax. And this is an issue that requires a serious balancing act. While we all want to ease growing pressure on local government services, none of us want to see hardworking taxpayers saddled with ever-higher bills. That’s particularly important at a time when inflation is growing faster than wages, when people are already feeling the effects on their pockets.

This settlement aims to keep taxes low whilst also raising the revenue you need. In addition, we are continuing to ensure that council taxpayers can veto excessive increases via a local referendum if they choose to do so. The referendum threshold has been set in line with inflation, and so we are setting the core council tax referendum principles at 3%.

Conclusion

Our homes talk to us about who we are. So what does the refurbished, refitted Local Government House tell us about local government?

Well, its location, in the heart of our democracy speaks volumes about its importance. The building itself, a historic site, talks about local government’s deep roots in our society. And the building’s modern new interior speaks of a sector that is fit for and looking to the future.

There are challenges in that future, yes. But there are opportunities too. Opportunities that we will only be able to make the most of by working together. By listening to each other. And I’m confident that, by working together, we can deliver reforms to the financial system that work for national government, for local government and – most important of all – for the millions of people we all seek to serve.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to Federation of Master Builders

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government in the Houses of Parliament in London, on 11 December 2017.

Good evening everyone, it’s great to see so many familiar faces and it’s a real pleasure to have you all here in Parliament.

As you know, the Palace of Westminster is beginning to show it’s age, we really do need to get the builders in.

I’m pretty sure I saw some of you pricing the job up on the way here!

And if you want to send your quotes to the Speaker, tell him Sajid sent you!

You are all, literally, master builders.

The FMB does great work in recognising that, certifying it.

Raising and maintaining standards.

And of course providing clients with the reassurance they need.

It’s a vital task.

After all, none of us are immune from the kind of shoddy workmanship the FMB protects against.

Even Winston Churchill.

When he was Prime Minister he complained that 10 Downing Street was, and I quote, “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name the street bears”.

Today, of course, the centre of government is strong and stable!

Although I’m sure John will take issue with that!

I want to start this evening by saying thank you to everyone in this room who helped us do something amazing last year.

217,000 net additions to the housing supply. The highest level in a decade, and an increase of 70% on what was achieved in 2009/10.

There’s still a long, long way to go but thanks to your hard work we’re certainly heading in the right direction.

Almost 40,000 of those net additions came about from change of use, including taking spaces above shops and turning them into homes.

This government has, quite rightly, put a lot of time and effort into regenerating high streets and strengthening local economies.

That has generally focussed on the retail side of things, but as the report you’re publishing today shows there is no reason why commercial and residential cannot coexist happily together.

I grew up in the flat above the family shop, so I’ve seen for myself how it can work not just in theory but in practice too.

That’s why last month’s Budget set out plans to make it easier to create quality homes in empty spaces above high street shops. And tonight is the first time I’ve heard John back the Budget, so well done to FMB for their lobbying!

So, Homes on our High Streets isn’t just a fascinating report, it’s also very timely contribution to the debate.

It puts forward some very interesting ideas and proposals; I was going through a draft this weekend.

And we’ll be looking at it very closely to see how it can help us to fix this country’s broken housing market.

Let me also take the time to thank Mark Prisk for all the work he has done, and for being the genesis of this report.

To do that, to fix the market, we’re going to have to create at least 300,000 homes each year.

And small and medium-sized builders are going to have big role to play in making that happen.

Our housing white paper was very clear on this.

Ever since the recession, the market has been dominated by a handful of very large developers.

It used to be the case that more than 60% of new homes were delivered by small firms.

Today the figure is half that, and that’s a tragedy.

I want to turn that around, to see more of you building more homes.

And we’re backing that with more funding – an additional £1.5 billion of short-term loan finance for SMEs, custom builders and innovators announced in the Budget.

We’re doing this because smaller firms are skilled at developing small sites, great at building out quickly, and have a strong track record of innovation.

And you also put a great premium on standards.

On quality.

When my dad was running his shop he had to make sure the clothes he was selling were of the highest quality…

…because he was selling them to the local community, to people he’d see every day.

And it’s the same for SME builders.

When you operate locally, your reputation is just as important as the work that you do.

That’s why membership of the FMB is such a badge of honour, it shows that you’re only happy with the best.

And it’s not just the quality of work that matters.

Quality of design is crucial too.

That’s not just my opinion – it’s something the great British public agrees with.

You know as well as I do that getting local communities onside is crucial to getting planning permission.

Well, almost three-quarters of people say they would support the building of more homes in their area if they were well-designed and in keeping with the local style.

People don’t like looking at identikt red-roofed boxes that could be basically anywhere in the country.

And nor should they.

Just because we need to build more homes it doesn’t mean we need to build ugly homes. Last month I was looking at RIBA’s House of the Year.

Make no mistake, the winner was undoubtedly a stunning piece of architecture.

But I’m not sure your average new-build 3-bed home has space for an art gallery, performance area and 27,000 fruit trees!

Good design doesn’t have to mean Grand Designs.

To be beautiful, to win that local support, new homes don’t have to make bold statements.

They just need to be an appropriate addition, something that local people want to live in and live next door to.

Last week we invited bids for our new fund that will help local authorities plan for growth and improve design.

But I want to go further.

So, in the spring, we will be working with the sector and with local government to host a national housing design conference.

It will be a showcase for ideas, insights and best practice from across the country and across the world, kicking off a real debate about how we can raise the design bar for everyone.

But I want you to be building houses that are worthy of your skills as master builders.

And this conference will go a long way to help making that happen.

As I said, there is still much to be done.

Still a long way to go to fix our broken housing market.

But with the FMB’s support, with your commitment to quality and innovation, I know that we can get there.

And I’m looking forward to making that journey with you.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to County Councils Network Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the County Councils Network Conference on 20 November 2017.

Good afternoon everyone, many thanks to Paul [Carter] for that kind introduction.

And thank you also for everything you’ve done as Chairman of the CCN.

You’ve shown tireless leadership and endless enthusiasm for the task, and it has been a real pleasure working with you.

The last time I spoke at a major local government conference, it was the LGA’s one back in the summer.

And I think it’s fair to say the reception was a little mixed.

Views were diverse.

Some said it went down like a bucket of cold sick.

Others disagreed – they liked it even less!

I know you’ve had a great day today.

I’ve been looking at the agenda and it looks like a brilliant programme.

I’m sorry I’m not able to join you for this evening’s festivities.

Sadly I’ve got to rush back for votes, which is a shame as I see Gyles Brandreth is tonight’s after-dinner speaker.

He’s certainly worth sticking around for.

I’m sure you all know that Gyles used to be a Conservative MP, from 1992 to 1997.

A very different time, when a minority government was beset with sleaze allegations and facing divisions over Europe…

Less well-known is the fact that, in 1978, Gyles was European Champion at the board game Monopoly.

True story.

So he certainly knows how to get houses built.

And in central London too, not on the green belt!

It’s a pleasure to be here in lovely Marlow, on the edge of the Chiltern Hills.

It’s a very historic town.

Mary Shelly lived just down the road when she was writing Frankenstein.

The story of a well-meaning individual who wants to do the right thing but ends up unleashing a monster.

Kind of like me with that LGA speech, actually…

With so much focus on the outcome of June’s General Election, a lot of people seem to have forgotten about May’s county polls.

Well, a lot of people outside this room, anyway!

Congratulations to everyone here who got elected or re-elected.

Paul, for example, he won 66% of the votes in his ward and leads a group that holds more than 80% of the seats in Kent.

80%!

I think it’s fair to say us Conservative MPs are a little envious!

I know it’s not easy to ask your fellow residents to judge you, put their faith in you, vote for you.

I’ve done it 3 times myself now and it’s certainly a humbling experience.

But a great many men and women did just that back in May, with thousands winning the backing of their local communities and proudly taking their seats on county councils.

In the weeks before the vote I travelled the whole country, talking with and listening to county councillors, candidates, officials and residents and hearing about what really mattered to them.

I often talk about councillors as being on the frontline of democracy and my tour of the counties really reinforced that.

What you do matters.

The decisions you make matter.

The people you serve rely on you to get things right. Time and again – you deliver for them.

You don’t do it for fame or riches.

You certainly don’t do it for an easy life.

You do it because you want to make a difference.

Because you want to make life better for the people of your counties.

You represent the very best aspects of public service and of British life.

And it’s an honour, an absolute honour, to represent you as Secretary of State.

The topics being debated here today and tomorrow show just how important our county councils are.

Social care, children’s services, transport, jobs and more.

These are the building blocks of daily life, relied on by millions of people.

And of course the thread that runs through all of them is the thread that runs through all of politics and government.

The thread alluded to by my Labour Shadow just a few minutes ago.

Funding.

I know that I could stand here all night and make any number of announcements and pronouncements and promises…

…and you’d all nod along politely and then say “that’s great, Saj, now show me the money”.

With the Budget happening on Wednesday and the local government finance settlement to come, it wouldn’t be right for me to get into specifics right now.

But, whatever the Budget brings, whatever the finance settlement brings, I remain totally committed to speaking up for the needs of local government.

Twelve months ago I stood in front of you and promised to fight for county councils in the year ahead.

To speak for you, lobby for you and be an advocate for you at the Cabinet table and beyond.

Twelve months on, that’s a promise I’ve worked hard to keep.

Over the past year, Marcus Jones and I have never stopped fighting to secure finance agreements that work for everyone.

For Whitehall, for the counties, and above all for the people we all serve.

That’s why we announced an extension of the business rates retention pilots.

That’s why we secured sizeable amounts of fresh funding for adult social care and just last week announced plans for a new green paper.

And that’s why we’re continuing to push ahead with our work on Fair Funding.

I recognise this is still a difficult financial climate. I know the pressures that you face, particularly with respect to adult and children’s social care.

I’m also not naïve enough to think there’s a single magic bullet that will instantly solve all of the issues you face.

I’d advise you to raise a sceptical eyebrow at anyone who claims to have one.

I’m interested in the long-term, not the quick fix.

Sustainable change, not an easy win.

And that’s why I will keep working with you to better understand these challenges so I can continue to fight your corner.

With many of your councils dating back to Victorian times, it’s easy to characterise counties as the dusty old relatives of the local government world…

…especially when compared with the shiny new unitaries, combined authorities and so on.

But that stereotype couldn’t be more wrong.

Because this is an exciting time for anyone involved with county councils.

A time of new opportunities, new roles, new ways to better serve the people you represent.

I know that in some corners of local government there’s still this outdated attitude that says councils should stay in their lane.

“We’re responsible for this, the districts are responsible for that and never the twain shall meet”.

You don’t need me to tell you that such thinking is woefully out of date.

The future – not to mention the present – is all about joined-up thinking, working together strategically to get things done.

Look at housing, the single biggest challenge of our age.

Most counties are not planning authorities, directly responsible for delivering homes.

But you’re all responsible for transport.

For schools.

For roads.

For creating an environment in which homes can be built, in which communities can be created.

I know that tomorrow you’re going to hear from Ed Lister about the role of counties in getting homes built.

And it’s great that you’re discussing it, because the only way we will build the homes this country needs is if we all roll up our sleeves and do our bit.

There are also opportunities for closer working across county lines.

There was a time when most peoples’ lives extended no further than a day’s walk from their home, but such days are far behind us.

In 21st century Britain, people are mobile.

Their work is mobile, their lives are mobile.

They are not constrained by lines on a map, and nor should you be.

No man is an island and – with a handful of literal exceptions – no council is either.

All local authorities are intrinsically linked with their neighbours on issues such as transport, housing and the economy…

…even the Isle of Wight with its links to Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton.

Earlier this month I was in China, where interest in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine was pronounced because potential investors want to look at opportunities on a regional level, not just individual towns, cities and counties.

That’s why strategic co-operation between councils has never been so important.

Sometimes that will be an informal process, sometimes more official.

We already see a great many Local Enterprise Partnerships crossing local authority lines, recognising the flows of people and money in the modern economy and the need for strategic decision-making.

And of course combined authorities, with a directly elected mayor, are already delivering results right across the country.

Up to now relatively few county councils have been involved in devolution deals.

Devolution has been seen as something for the big cities, the metropolitan centres.

This government remains absolutely committed to the devolution agenda, but I see no reason why its benefits should be limited to the cities.

That’s particularly important given our Industrial Strategy, which is built around the goal of sharing the benefits of growth right across the country – north and south, urban and rural, cities and counties.

Devolution and localism, for me, is all about making decisions at the most appropriate level.

Some things, matters of national importance, will always be best decided at Westminster.

But for everything else, there are all kinds of opportunities to redistribute power in all kinds of ways.

Just look at Transport for the North, set to become a statutory body in the spring, and recognising the benefits of looking at transport on a regional level.

What does this mean for counties?

Well, if you have an idea for making local government work better, one that serves the interests of local people, then please come and tell me about it.

If local people want it, if local businesses want it, I’ll do what I can to help you make it happen.

And that could include non-mayoral combined authorities in, for example, rural areas where a single figurehead isn’t necessarily suitable.

To help with that process we’re looking at how to design a devolution framework.

As promised in our election manifesto it will be a common set of guidelines.

Rules that everyone plays by, so that everyone involved in the process…

…local authorities, businesses, residents…

…knows where they stand and what is expected of them.

Work is still in the early stages – and I’d welcome your support in shaping the final product.

But I want a framework that, above all else, provides clarity and consistency about what a successful devolution agreement looks like.

What standards will need to be met, what outcomes will need delivered, what red lines there are for the whole process.

Expectations about leadership, scope and levels of local support.

With a clear position on how devolution negotiations should proceed, authorities at all levels will much better placed to develop and put forward proposals that suit the unique needs of their residents and businesses.

It will help ensure that the right decisions are made at the right levels, so that local people get the services they deserve.

Of course, devolution and combined authorities aren’t the only changes that counties are talking about right now.

I’ve now received two proposals setting out competing visions for the future of Buckinghamshire – whether that should be as one unitary or two.

These show councils at their best – ambitious, innovative, and ready to come forward with exciting ideas for the future.

We’re now going through both sets of plans very closely and will be making an announcement on next steps as soon as we can.

And, earlier this month, I announced that I’m minded to support the plan for a pair of unitary authorities in Dorset.

I know that’s a decision that was welcomed by the CCN, it’s great to be on the same page as you.

But, more importantly for me, it’s a decision that was also supported by two-thirds of Dorset residents.

By the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.

By the vast majority of local businesses.

By 6 of the 9 local councils.

By most of the county’s MPs.

I’ve always been clear that any change to council structures should not be dreamed up or imposed by Whitehall, but led by local councils and local people.

And that’s exactly what we’ve seen in Dorset.

Yes, some people disagree with the move.

That’s what happens in a democracy.

And that’s why, when I announced that I was minded to support the change, I made it very clear that further steps are needed to try to secure local consent before a final decision is made.

Last year I told you that I wasn’t going to force all of you to go unitary.

That’s still very much the case.

But if councils want to come to me with proposals that will improve local government, improve public services, and give better value to local taxpayers…

My door is always open.

And if, as in Dorset, those plans are built on a foundation of local support, it will make any decision I have to make a great deal easier!

Speaking of councils coming to me with ideas, let me take this opportunity to thank the CCN and Respublica for the fascinating report you’ve just published.

At a time when opportunities and challenges are plenty, it’s great to see you proactively looking at innovative ways of dealing with them.

In Budget week in particular, it’s very easy for politicians who aren’t in power to offer blank cheques they know will never be cashed and empty promises they know will never be kept.

Actually coming up with workable, practical ideas is much harder.

So this report is a welcome addition to the debate.

It certainly provides food for thought, and my team and I will be looking at it closely.

And I’ll also be asking Paul to sign a copy so I can give it to Marcus Jones in the Secret Santa next month!

All ministers have annual fixtures in their speaking diaries – the CCN conference is one such example.

But, because I’ve run 3 departments in less than 4 years, this conference today is actually the first time I’ve managed to speak an annual event 2 years in a row!

I think it’s fitting that the CCN is where I break that particular duck.

Because local government is very, very important to me.

I talk about housing a lot, everyone knows it’s my number one priority, but that doesn’t mean I’m not full of admiration for what you do.

So it’s great that I’m able to come back year after year to build relationships, reflect on progress, and work together on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

That’s why, rather than talking at you for an hour, I’m going to give over the rest of this slot to Q&A.

I want to hear your views, your concerns, your ideas.

I want a conversation with local government, not a lecture.

County councils have roots that go back through the centuries.

They are a significant part of this country’s history.

They play a vital role in its present.

And, when I look around this room, I see no shortage of ambition for the future.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you to turn that ambition into results.

Thank you.