Good morning and welcome to HMI 2012. I am delighted to be Chairing he event this year – a role usually reserved for the CEO of our main sponsor the NHBC but as their new CEO Mike Quinton doesn’t start until Oct 15th I’m afraid you will have to put up with me this year.
As I am chairing I haven’t been given a speaking slot this year – many of you may be relieved to hear – so as we have a busy day I will keep my opening remarks short.
Everyone now accepts that we have a housing crisis in this country. 5 million people on LA waiting lists; 25% of 30 year olds still living at home; the average age of a FTB’s closer to 40 than 30.
Since we last met here a year ago, we have seen a number of significant housing packages announced.
The Government unveiled its ‘Housing Strategy’ last November, the centre piece of which was NewBuy which we helped to create and which since its launch in march has helped over 1500 purchasers realise their dream to own their own home despite only having a 5% deposit.
We have also secured more funding for Firstbuy – again something we worked hard to achieve; have seen announcements on Get Britain Building, the release of public sector land; Build Now Pay later – and alongside all that the publication of the NPPF earlier this year after a bitter and at times farcical debate.
And just this week Labour has focussed on housing at their conference in Manchester, pledging to devote the proceeds of the 4G auction to a major social house building programme and a two year stamp duty holiday for FTB’s. So I fully expect housing to be a major debating point in the run up to the next Election
Recently we have also seen a major Government reshuffle and although the press focussed heavily on the changes in the Department for Transport – largely because of the continuing debate about the 3rd runway at Heathrow etc - CLG also saw major changes with all the Ministers except Eric Pickles moving on.
I should just say that in many ways I was sorry to see Grant Shapps move on. We had got to know him well over 5 years and whether we thought he was right or wrong he was always prepared to openly debate with us - and many of you - the key issues of the day. It was certainly a benefit that he occupied the housing seat for so long, in stark contrast to the previous government who changed housing ministers on average every 9 months, making it very difficult to develop any kind of rapport
Incidentally many people have asked me if I am in any way concerned about the Ministerial changes. I have to say, without in any way wishing to sound complacent, I really am not - largely because I think HBF is in a very different place today compared to say 5 or 6 years ago.
Back then we had to work really hard to get an audience with new Ministers, to persuade them that we were an organisation they should engage with and that we could assist them to understand the issues and help provide solutions.
We have come a long way since then and I was very pleased that both Mark Prisk and Nick Boles contacted me within a day or so of taking office and I met with each of them shortly after that.
We also have strong relationships across Government now, including with No 10 – I have met the PM three times in the past year, most recently at a small private breakfast just a week or two ago.
Meetings like that, and the ones with the new ministers, are a great opportunity for us to put across to people at the very highest level of Government concerns and ideas as to how Government can best work with our industry.
Nor do I think the changes at CLG signal a shift in thinking on housing. In my meetings with both Mark Prisk and Nick Boles they have emphasised to me their desire to get on with implementing the policies they have inherited.
Unfortunately, as a result of the diary confusion that inevitably follows a reshuffle Mark Prisk can’t be with us today.
But we do have a truly exceptional line up of speakers - a range of experts from across the industry who can shed light and insight on all of the key issues, and as I am sure you will have noticed we also have a full day so I am going to have to work hard to get us through on time.
So without any further delay lets press on with our first speaker, Peter Schofield who is the Director General for neighbourhoods at CLG, a post he has held since March this year , prior to which he was a Treasury official and so , has a clear understanding of the economic importance of our industry to the wider economy
Peter is at the coal face in terms of how the Government’s Housing strategy is progressing and as such he is uniquely positioned to be able to explain Government thinking and how Government views industry progress on some of these areas.
Please give a very warm welcome to Peter Schofield