Whether or not you think the Coalition Government has been on the side of the UK property industry for the last four and a half years, one thing is certain: the clock is ticking.
Has today’s Autumn Statement (#AS2014) convinced our industry that this Coalition is truly pro-business? Probably not.
The £15bn road package Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, introduced on Monday as “the biggest, boldest, and most far-reaching roads programme for decades,” and the Bicester Garden City announcement, were well received. Questions have been raised about how quickly these schemes can be delivered. Likewise, further talk about the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is great rhetoric but the industry will be hungry for more detail.
The planning measures introduced in the form of a National Infrastructure Plan are a step in the right direction, but as the BPF’s Liz Peace suggested, structural reform is “only half the battle.”
Business rates continue to be an enduring gripe and what was presented today will be considered by many to be insufficient for what retailers need. The simple reality is that the urban renaissance of our town centres will be stymied where rates bills are higher than rents. The British Council of Shopping Centres’ demands for proper reform were met with further commitments by the Chancellor but, as BCSC’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Ed Cooke indicated, “the devil will be in the detail.”
Finally, the Chancellor’s much anticipated Stamp Duty reforms have been vaunted as a means of encouraging residential investment and getting more people onto the housing ladder. The public and industry response so far has been positive. Whether these reforms have the desired effect is a different matter.
So what next? The political parties’ focus now moves onto their manifestos. Before that happens, a plethora of trade bodies, interest groups and businesses will be sending in their wish lists. Our industry is no different.
The Chancellor did well today. Whether he’s got his maths right or not? That’s a question for May. Not long now.