Miliband to pledge to build a million new homes in his speech

A mass housebuilding programme designed to stimulate growth and employment, and limit price rises, could be the game-changer Labour so badly needs.

As I revealed earlier this week, it is housebuilding that will the central theme of Ed Miliband's speech tomorrow. The Labour leader will pledge to build one million new homes over the course of the next parliament in the biggest building programme for a generation.

All three of the main parties have identified housing as one of the defining political issues of the moment but while the coalition's Help To Buy scheme is inflating demand, it does little to address what Miliband rightly calls the "fundamental problem" of supply. He will announce that Sir Michael Lyons, the former council chief executive and former BBC Trust chairman, will chair a Rebuilding Britain Commission to locate sites for new towns and garden cities akin to Milton Keynes and Welwyn Garden City. The commission will also introduce a new "right to grow" status which will force town halls to draw up housebuilding plans with neighbouring councils. In addition, Miliband will pledge to tackle the problem of land-banking by giving councils the power to charge developers for sitting on land with planning permission, or to issue compulsory purchase orders.

As a policy, a mass housebuilding programme ticks all the boxes: it is easy to explain and offers a powerful dividing line with the Tories. It would stimulate growth and employment, help to bring down long-term borrowing (for every £100 that is invested in housebuilding £350 is generated in return) and reduce welfare spending. It would be a literal fulfilment of Labour's pledge to "rebuild Britain" after austerity, just as the 1945 government did after the war. Jack Dromey, the shadow housing minister, said: "The next Labour government will tackle Britain’s housing crisis by building homes on a scale no government has done for a generation and in doing so creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and apprenticeships." After months in which many of Miliband's supporters have lamented the absence of a signature policy, this could well be the political game-changer he so badly needs.

In an attempt to position Labour as the party of small business, Miliband will also announce a £790m cut in tax rates for smaller firms, funded by reversing the planned cut in corporation tax from 21% to 20% in 2015. The cut in business rates would apply to 1.5 million businesses with an annual rental value of £50,000 or less, saving firms an average of £450 a year and as much as £2,000. Upon entering office in 2015, Labour would return rates to their 2014 level and then freeze them in 2016. It would also reconsider the coalition's decision to postpone the business rate revaluation until 2017, which will benefit prosperous parts of the country at the expense of poorer ones.

Ed Miliband applauds Ed Balls after his speech to the Labour conference in Brighton. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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If Seumas Milne leaves Jeremy Corbyn, he'll do it on his own terms

The Corbynista comms chief has been keeping a diary. 

It’s been a departure long rumoured: Seumas Milne to leave post as Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy to return to the Guardian.

With his loan deal set to expire on 20 October, speculation is mounting that he will quit the leader’s office. 

Although Milne is a key part of the set-up – at times of crisis, Corbyn likes to surround himself with long-time associates, of whom Milne is one – he has enemies within the inner circle as well. As I wrote at the start of the coup, there is a feeling among Corbyn’s allies in the trade unions and Momentum that the leader’s offfice “fucked the first year and had to be rescued”, with Milne taking much of the blame. 

Senior figures in Momentum are keen for him to be replaced, while the TSSA, whose general secretary, Manuel Cortes, is one of Corbyn’s most reliable allies, is said to be keen for their man Sam Tarry to take post in the leader’s office on a semi-permanent basis. (Tarry won the respect of many generally hostile journalists when he served as campaign chief on the Corbyn re-election bid.) There have already been personnel changes at the behest of Corbyn-allied trade unions, with a designated speechwriter being brought in.

But Milne has seen off the attempt to remove him, with one source saying his critics had been “outplayed, again” and that any new hires will be designed to bolster, rather than replace Milne as comms chief. 

Milne, however, has found the last year a trial. I am reliably informed that he has been keeping a diary and is keen for the full story of the year to come out. With his place secure, he could leave “with his head held high”, rather than being forced out by his enemies and made a scapegoat for failures elsewhere, as friends fear he has been. The contents of the diary would also allow him to return in triumph to The Guardian rather than slinking back. 

So whether he decides to remain in the Corbyn camp or walk away, the Milne effect on Team Corbyn is set to endure.

 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.