Scrapping the cap

The Prime Minister closed the conference with a well-received speech that contained an unexpected, but very welcome, announcement – the scrapping of the cap on the amount councils can borrow against their housing revenue account assets.

It is hard to overestimate the significance of this announcement, which is something that the LGA – and, in particular our Chairman, Lord Porter – have long lobbied for on the basis that it has hampered councils’ ability to play a leading role in tackling the housing shortage.

There was also recognition of the pressures on social care with the announcement, by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, of an extra £240 million to reduce delayed discharges.

This is a good first step – something I will be urging the Government to build on. I was also pleased to hear clear recognition from ministers of the need to focus on prevention.

“The housing borrowing cap has hampered councils’ ability to play a leading role in tackling the housing shortage

Other key announcements were the creation of a £200 million fund to divert young people from crime and, noteworthy in the context of the LGA’s broadband campaign, the guarantee that, by 2020, everyone will have the right to minimum speeds of 10 megabits per second.

I was delighted to be in the auditorium to hear our Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, deliver his speech, which included important announcements on the banning of the use of combustible materials on a variety of buildings and the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman, to champion homebuyers and hold developers to account.

It was also encouraging to hear James emphasise how closely he is working with Matt Hancock on the Social Care Green Paper, to put the system on a sustainable long-term footing and facilitate the better integration of services.

Despite these positive announcements, signifiant challenges remain. Ahead of the Budget, my colleagues and I are highlighting these issues, and continuing to argue for local government finance as a whole to be put on a sustainable long-term footing.

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