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3rd February 2015

Solace response to the Elphicke-House report on the role of local government in housing

On 27th January, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published an independent report from a review led jointly by Natalie Elphicke and Keith House. The review considered how councils can help to increase housing supply for their communities across all tenures. This is a statement from Manjeet Gill, Solace Deputy Spokesperson on Housing and Chief Executive at West Lindsey District Council, in response:

Solace welcomes the report and the Government’s initial response published by DCLG on 27th January 2015 welcoming the report and accepting the core recommendations that local authorities could do more to play a central role in supporting the provision of new homes.

Housing is a very important area and it is one of Solace’s main policy priorities recently recognised at the Solace Policy Board. Particularly important is to understand future housing needs of local areas and to build leadership capability at a local level. Moreover, housing drives investment and growth in many local areas and it is crucial to recognise the changing needs and lifestyles of both younger and older generations in order to produce policies that rightly reflect the increasing demand.

Solace particularly welcomes the recognition of the role of local government as an enabler and a leader of Place. This enables us to move beyond needs assessment and management of council housing and, instead, take on a wider role to further develop the housing market and to consolidate resources to enable delivery. We agree that the role that Chief Executives and senior management play in helping political leaders reach the delivery of a partnership vision is essential, particularly through bringing together different professions from within and outside the Council.

Solace would like to emphasise the ‘place-shaping’ role local government can and does carry out. The report already highlights a number of examples of best practice in different areas where councils are already putting into practice much of what is highlighted in the report. For instance, Ashford serves as a good example of community leadership, whilst there are several examples of joint ventures including Luton, Derby, and Peterborough, or a multi delivery model such as Bournemouth.

Crucially, the development of leadership capacity and skills is central to accelerating this shift. Resources to develop the smaller builder market are essential and need to build on some of the existing HCA schemes for smaller sites. Solace would welcome further discussions with national partners, including LGA, HCA, and DCLG, as to how this capability and capacity can be funded and the recommendations of the report taken forward. Given the continued levels of austerity, we would like to stress the importance of innovation, freedoms and using existing resources in a different way.

Finally, although Peer Reviews are valuable in helping assessment of current positions, more needs to be done in terms of investment in leadership and skills development. These can then be applied and used more effectively across different local government areas of responsibility, such as planning, economic development, and housing management, as well as across partnerships at both local and sub-regional levels.