With the Conservative Party Conference being in its third day, we wanted to give you a quick summary of what has been pledged by the current ministers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer
One thing is for certain, Brexit means Brexit. It’s a phrase we first heard from Theresa May, but one that has now been echoed throughout the conference by almost all the ministers speaking. Aside from that and the constant verbal swipes at Jeremy Corbyn, there have been some significant policy statements for the coming years. One of the more interesting ones (at least for me as a 24-year-old) is that the Government finally seems to be moving towards the direction of dealing with the insane housing situation — which at the moment means that the next generation will only be able to dream of owning their own space.
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government jumped straight into his talk, with housing being his ‘number one priority’. Indeed, it was interesting to hear that Javid acknowledges the issue of housing prices having risen disproportionately to wages. Of course, the reality is that real wages haven’t increased for quite some time whereas house prices have rocketed beyond imagination, but the acknowledgement is a good start nonetheless.
Javid stated during the conference that it is the Government’s moral duty to deal with the housing issue and that many more homes are needed — something that all parties and political ideologies across the board seem to agree with. The main issue however, as he pointed out, is that many wish for more homes to be built, but just not ‘next to them or their community’. The problem, according to Javid, is that people have a very negative perception of new builds. They are seen as invasive and disruptive to communities.
These barriers and perceptions need to be broken down by giving consumers better choice on how their home will be built. A very good start. Javid then offered two potential ways on how this could be achieved:
1) Opening a £3 million building fund. This would allow SME and small business builders the ability to break into the building market, something which is traditionally reserved for big multinational building contractors.
2) Accelerated construction on public land. This was unclear, with mention of off-site construction. Will this involve flat pack housing and 3D printers like some have speculated in the past? I wonder …
Regardless of the exact way these proposals can be achieved, the housing issue is arguably one of the biggest problems our society faces and any solution would surely be welcome.
Javid ended with a scathing attack on the Labour Party, stating that Labour wishes to create a ‘society dependent on the state, while we want a state that supports society’. Naturally, mention was also given to the huge landholdings hoarded by supermarkets and pensions funds, which at some fringe events at the conference have been offered as the catalyst for why land has become more expensive. No mention was of course given by Javid on how these multinationals will be dealt with.
Grant Shapps, former Minister of State at Department for International Development, began with the notion of ‘Business, not socialism’ — obviously a comment harbouring little reference to Labour’s growing Left-wing trend. that said, Shapps did mention some very interesting points in support of SMEs and startups, often the lifeblood of any successful industrial revolution. Local enterprise partners will be expanded and improved to help SMEs and to support innovation and job creation pioneered by entrepreneurs.
It was also stressed that investment is key and, perhaps more controversially, that companies which control and dominate a market can at times abuse their consumers due to a lack of competition, a key free market requisite. No doubt this will be a conversation that Shapps will take to the giants of the corporate world in the coming months.
Shapps acknowledged that, aside from family and education, work and the workplace is the third most important aspect in one’s life. As such, it needs to be motivating and workers need to be remunerated fairly. We must never forget that although the UK houses one of the richest parts of Europe within its boarders, it also houses some of the poorest.
Finally, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer was not shy in pointing out that the Conservatives were the only party to fully accept the result of Brexit. His speech stated: ‘No ifs, no buts, no second referendum, we are leaving the European Union’, words met with cheers from the audience.
Hammond also argued that this leave from the EU will free us up to repatriate our sovereignty, regain control of our borders and involve ourselves more globally with trade. He too couldn’t help but add a quick jab at the Labour Party, stating that two million more people are in work now than during Labour’s time in power and announcing that the Conservatives are presently the ‘true party of the British working people’. A bold statement, if true. I do wonder though, how many of these two million are temps or on zero-hour contracts …
Hammond also mentioned some very positive facts and figures. Including, that we as a nation have grown faster since 2010 than any other G7 country. He did also tackle the issue of Brexit, mentioning that business hates uncertainty. Hence, the treasury has announced that it will guarantee the funding stream of all businesses and organisations that have secured EU funding prior to us leaving the Union. This will certainly be a relief to all the universities and businesses with EU contracts and bids currently in process.
Interestingly, Hammond also touched on raising national productivity, which he stated is lower than in the US, Germany, Italy and France. I presume ‘productivity’ meant real wages? As such, it would be a welcome change to see the Government dealing with this festering issue in the months ahead, especially given that more and more families are beginning to rely on food banks due to the lack of wage increase.
Finally, mention was given to start-up support and funding with £100 million going to biomedical startups and £120 million going towards supporting tech hubs and start-up tech transfer offices.
The overall message of the conference seemed very positive with key issues such as housing, employment and the need to support Britain’s entrepreneurs, all receiving attention. Let’s just hope that what has been discussed here is enacted, as the dire gap between wages and living expenses is growing and the housing problem is becoming unmanageable. If the Government has a strategy it should implement it soon, before the potential problems of Brexit make everything even harder for the people it claims to represent.