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Gove confirms mandatory housebuilding targets for councils will be abolished in face of


Gove confirms levelling up bill will be amended to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets for councils

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has sent a letter to Tory MPs confirming that the government will water down housebuilding targets, PA Media reports. PA says Gove told the MPs the levelling up bill would be amended to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets.

Gove said he recognises “there is no truly objective way of calculating how many new homes are needed in an area” but the “plan-making process for housing has to start with a number”.

The change would make the centrally determined target a “starting point”, with councils able to propose building fewer homes if they faced “genuine constraints” or would have to build at a density that would “significantly change the character” of their area.

The bill is expected to return to the Commons next week for day two of its report stage, PA says.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, says the Rishi Sunak U-turn over housebuilding targets (see 5.03pm and 5.10pm) shows that the “weak” PM is in office but not in power.

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Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has sent a letter to Tory MPs confirming that the government will water down housebuilding targets, PA Media reports. PA says Gove told the MPs the levelling up bill would be amended to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets.

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Gove said he recognises “there is no truly objective way of calculating how many new homes are needed in an area” but the “plan-making process for housing has to start with a number”.

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The change would make the centrally determined target a “starting point”, with councils able to propose building fewer homes if they faced “genuine constraints” or would have to build at a density that would “significantly change the character” of their area.

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The bill is expected to return to the Commons next week for day two of its report stage, PA says.

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Rishi Sunak has agreed to give in to the key demand of the Tory planning rebels who were backing an amendment to the levelling up bill that would have abolished mandatory housebuilding targets for councils, Daniel Martin and Christopher Hope report at the Telegraph.

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This amounts to a significant victory for Theresa Villiers, the former environment secretary who tabled the rebel amendment backed by more than 50 Tory backbenchers. She told the Telegraph:

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The government has listened and will amend planning rules so that councils which are subject to genuine constraints will be permitted to reduce their [housing] target. This will apply if meeting the centrally determined target would significantly change the character of an area, for example from suburban to high-rise urban.

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The compromise we have secured shows that positive change can be achieved through backbench scrutiny of legislation.

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And Bob Seely, another Tory who signed the amendment, told the Telegraph:

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We know how many communities have been battling against bad development. Supported by well over 100 Tory MPs, we have helped ministers shape a housing and planning agenda which is more conservative than the one we currently have.

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Targets will be advisory, not mandatory. The power of planning inspectors is weakened. Rules which have helped developers force councils to release land will be weakened.

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The new language we’ve agreed will work with communities, speaking to the character of areas and celebrating the beauty of good design. It understands the need for farmland, will significantly emphasise brownfield over greenfield development, and will help deliver homes for young people.

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Seely’s final claim is questionable. Critics claim that watering down the housing targets will make it harder for people to build new homes for young people.

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This is not Sunak’s first U-turn – the Mirror has a list of some others here – but it is the first time as PM has backed down in the face of a revolt by Tory MPs.

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And he has retreated, or compromised, even thought he was in no risk of losing the vote, because the Villiers amendment did not have Labour support.

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Keir Starmer says the Labour proposals in relation to economic clusters (see 9.38am) are extremely important. They are central to what the report is about, he says. These proposals could lead to the report being a turning point, he says. He says in the future people will look back at it and see that the report was “the turning point between an old economy that wasn’t working, and a new economy that actually has worked for the whole of the United Kingdom”.

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Brown says Scotland led the way with devolution. Now all other parts of the UK were following.

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But, he says, there was a “missing element” in Labour’s constitutional reform programme; the centre was left untouched, he says.

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Now it is time to tackle that, he says.

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We have a centre that, in my view, under the Conservatives, is completely out of touch with local needs.

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It is out of date because it has not reformed itself.

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It’s out of its depth when it tries to micromanage decisions, as we found over the pandemic, that should be made locally.

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And of course, we have seen in so many different instances, it’s out of control with corruption, cronyism, contracts to friends. We’re seeing it only in the last few days in some of the scandals that are being reported – abuse of power, abusive of patronage – and no doubt we’ll see in the next few weeks when Boris Johnson has his resignation honours list, and Rishi Sunak has to approve it.

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Keir Starmer and Gordon Brown are now holding a second launch for the Commission on UK’s Future report in Scotland. Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, is there too.

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Brown starts by saying he thinks Sarwar will be the next first minister of Scotland.

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Gordon Brown has told PA Media that he thinks the public appetite for political change is even stronger than it was in 1997, when New Labour was elected. He said:

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I was around obviously, in the many years from the 1980s to 1997 parliament and I saw the rising demand for change.

n

The worry about the decline in public standards, which happened when we had all these sleaze allegations, the failure of the economy after ERM [Exchange Rate Mechanism] and people’s desire for change, but I think it’s a more sweeping and more noticeable desire, and it’s in every part of the country.

n

In 1997, we had a desire for devolution in Scotland, then in Wales, but now you see the desire for local power in Manchester, in Liverpool, in Newcastle but not just in the cities.

n

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Asked if Labour would benefit from this, he replied:

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I think so, because Labour is offering real change and not cosmetic change.

n

Levelling-up seems to me to be cosmetic change. Because if you can move people up from the bottom rung, to the second bottom rung, you can say you’ve succeeded. What we want is equal opportunity for every part of the country. And that’s a big change.

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Jeremy Corbyn has said he should have the Labour whip restored and be allowed to stand as a candidate for the party at the next election. Responding to Keir Starmer saying this morning that he could not see Corbyn being a Labour candidate again (see 9.15am), Corbyn said:

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I am honoured to be the full-time representative of Islington North, and will continue to tackle the most important issues – the cost-of living crisis, stagnant wages and growing inequality – affecting my constituents.

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I was elected as a Labour MP and proud to be so. I have made it clear that the whip was wrongly removed, and it should be reinstated.

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Labour members have the democratic right to choose their candidate. Currently, members in Islington North are being denied that right, and it should be restored immediately.

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Corbyn also posted a message on Twitter implying that it was hypocritcal of Starmer to favour the decentralisation of power for the UK, but not within the Labour party.

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Momentum, the Labour group set up to back Corbyn’s agenda when he was Labour leader, has also made the same point.

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Corbyn and Momentum are referring to the way that activists who are even loosely associated with the Corbynite left are being blocked from standing for election. Labour insiders accept that rigorous vetting is taking place, but they claim that people are being vetoed on grounds of competence, not ideology.

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Compass, the leftwing group committed to pluralism, has welcomed the proposals in the Gordon Brown commission report, but complained that they do not go far enough. In a news release, it says:

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Brown’s report … includes some promising recommendations, including plans to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber, but ultimately the vision lacks the depth and breadth needed to tackle the UK’s democratic disillusionment.

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In two key ways, Brown’s proposals fall short: failing to involve citizens in designing a new democracy from the start; and overlooking one of the most important structural changes this country needs to respond to the challenges of 21st century government: proportional representation. These two commitments would mean both greater legitimacy and longevity for Brown’s proposals.

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Compass says Labour would be better advised to follow the proposals in its own report, We’ll have what they’re having: How decentralisation in Germany created the conditions for ‘the great…



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Gove confirms mandatory housebuilding targets for councils will be abolished in face of