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Brexit Festival, dirty dancing and housing policies galore

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

The dust has finally settled from another entertaining 2018 party political conference season, with plenty to mull over.

One unforgettable highlight this week saw an unconventional podium walk from the Prime Minister at the Conservative conference in Birmingham. Aside from that, the past three weeks has also seen Labour coming out strong in Liverpool and the Lib Dems reasserting themselves in Brighton.

There were no disasters, no mishaps, no significant rows, a potential bid to join the 2019 “Strictly” team, Diane Abbott beer mats, Vince Cable mugs and the occasional ‘exotic spresm’.

There was offence when the Home Secretary compared the EU to the Soviet Union, but that was from Donald Tusk, European Council president, so was very much welcomed by many Conservative members. Brexit was ever-present at all the conferences but not actually discussed in detail, apart from when Mrs May’s utterly bizarre plans for a Brexit Festival were being roundly ridiculed.

Conservative Leader in Wanting, Boris Johnson, made another populist speech, with much about housebuilding and planning. He rounded on the top eight housebuilders and the practice of land banking, perpetuating this idea, regardless of the fact his own government’s review into housebuilding found this was not an issue. More has to be done by the industry to address this as it is a perception that is widely held across councils, councillors and the media.

Conservatives and Labour agreed housing was the key issue after Brexit. It is a “housing crisis” and “the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation”, according to Theresa May.

Labour introduced a swathe of policies sure to appease those unable to get their foot on the housing ladder, setting out plans to double council tax on holiday properties in England, introduce a commission to make citizens more involved in planning decisions, build more affordable homes and protect renters rights.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats turned up and were just excited to be there. Alright, that’s not exactly fair: they also proposed setting up a British Housing Company to acquire land for housebuilding through compulsory acquisition, and set out some genuinely interesting proposals on Rent-to-Buy.

Caps were removed, upward development approved, targets of 300,000 new homes confirmed and a new homes ombudsman announced, all polished off with the ‘Maybot’ and an increasingly copied Pinocchio dance sweeping the nation.

Read our more detailed summaries of what happened at the ConservativeLabour and Lib Dem conferences.