So it is all over. Six weeks of frantic campaigning and now we have a Government.
At least, I hope we do. Editorial deadlines being what they are, I am writing this with no knowledge of who won. So if there has been a result too close to call or a last minute coup by the Socialist Workers Party, with our brave troops defending Downing Street against of a tide of revolutionary fanatics, then feel free to stop reading now.
These caveats to one side, whoever is in 10 Downing Street, there is one dead cert for the next five years that will have an impact on our industry.
Devolution is a word you didn’t hear during the election campaign and yet it is going to be at the heart of the new Government’s plans. The outcome of the Scottish referendum last year and the subsequent response of the main parties means that we are going to see more and more decision making devolving to local areas across Britain.
The signs were already there in the dying days of the last administration. Under the terms of a cross party deal done in November, the Scottish Government is to be granted complete income tax raising powers and in February, George Osborne announced the devolution of NHS services for Manchester.
All the main parties are wedded to devolution – the differences between them being about how they can each introduce it in a way that will serve their own narrow interests. The Conservatives would stop Scottish Labour MPs voting on English legislation and devolve more power to competent local and regional authorities. Labour would look at devolving welfare and other policies to Scotland. For the Liberal Democrats, greater devolution is at the heart of all they stand for.
How will this impact on housebuilding. Well, greater devolution will be a long term process, but ‘localism style’ policies will continue and broaden. PPS organised for clients to meet the then Planning Minister Brandon Lewis just before the election and he was waxing lyrical about the benefits and achievements of neighbourhood plans. There will be no return to centrally set housing numbers and local authorities will have greater and greater responsibility for assessing and providing for their own housing needs.
Devolution, with a slow drip of power from the centre to both devolved Governments and local authorities, will be one of the signature policies of the next five years.