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'More should be done to aid home building'

Thursday 20 March 2014 Updated: 20/03 23:34

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NORTHFIELD'S Labour MP Richard Burden has given us his thoughts about the budget in this week's Westminster Diary.

I WRITE this month’s diary just before budget day on Wednesday (March 19).

I know many local people will be wondering just why the famous ‘red box’ matters at all. This is George Osborne’s fourth budget as Chancellor. But the average family is £1,600 worse off than when he delivered his first.

I’d be prepared to bet that on Wednesday George Osborne will claim that they are delivering on their ‘long term economic plan’, but I also know that for most working people this just doesn’t feel like a recovery at all.

Not for the thousands of young people unemployed in the West Midlands. Or for families struggling to pay their rising gas and electricity bills. Or the local people who can’t find a place to buy or rent at a price they can afford.

The word is that the budget may include a ‘Garden City’ for Kent. This is nowhere near the kind of action we need to tackle the UK’s housing shortage.

The number of homes built is at its lowest in peacetime since the 1920s. The number of affordable homes built in 2013 dropped by a quarter. And homelessness has risen every year under this Government. In Birmingham it is five times the national average. The Government is failing to get to grips with the scale of the crisis.

Labour has announced ambitious plans to be building at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020, including new ‘use it or lose it’ powers for local communities to get developers building, a crackdown on rogue landlords and action on empty property.

We also know we must meet future housing demand in a sustainable way. That means bringing back Labour’s ‘Brownfield First’ policy the Government scrapped. Building on green fields may be cheaper but it’s less sustainable. People round here know that is bad for the local environment. In fact, in Longbridge, local Labour councillors and I are opposing building on North Worcestershire Golf Course – an important open area on high ground which protects nearby estates from flooding.

Labour has set out ambitious plans for future home-building - to help tackle the rising costs of renting and buying, create lasting jobs and growth in our economy, and meet future demand in a sustainable way.

Sadly, I doubt that when the Chancellor opens the red box on Wednesday we will see any such thing.    

Richard Burden

Northfield MP

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