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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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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