Spring Statement 2019 – a look behind the headlines


The Spring Statement on 13 March, delivered amidst a flurry of Brexit votes, was accompanied by several noteworthy housing and planning messages intended to support the government’s continued ambition to raise housing supply to reach 300,000 a year on average.

A three-year Spending Review will be launched before the summer recess and will be concluded alongside an autumn Budget. The 2019 Spending Review will have a focus on the outcomes achieved for the money invested in public services.  In  that context, alongside the Spring Statement, a revised Public Spending Public Value Framework was released which would guide decisions in the Spending Review.

Future Homes Standard – There will be a consultation this year on what could be a wide-ranging standard to apply from 2025 so that new build homes are future-proofed with low carbon heating – this could tackle previous concerns the Chancellor has expressed about new-build quality.

A consultation on Infrastructure Finance was published seeking views on how the government can best support private infrastructure investment in the context of the UK’s changing relationship with the European Investment Bank.  It also asks if the government should consider alternative forms of infrastructure finance support for housing associations in the context of the end of European Investment Bank funding.

The Chancellor reiterated the government’s commitment to publishing a National Infrastructure Strategy – the first of its kind – setting out the government’s priorities for economic infrastructure and responding to recommendations in the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment.

Letwin Review – the government issued its response to the review of build-out rates on large sites conducted by Sir Oliver Letwin. It stated there was ‘widespread acceptance of Sir Oliver’s analysis across the sector’ and confirms the findings ‘that it is the market absorption rate that determines the rate at which developers build out large sites’. Additional planning guidance on housing diversification will be published shortly.  A focus on evolving the existing system of developer contributions and gathering evidence to explore the case for further reform was confirmed.

It was announced that an Accelerated Planning Green Paper would be published ‘later this year’ on how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process.  This will also draw on the Rosewell Review, which made recommendations to reduce the time taken to conclude planning appeal inquiries.  Government will also consider the case for further reforms to the compulsory purchase regime.

Permitted development – Government will implement an immediate package of permitted development right measures in the spring, with the more complex matters, including on upward extensions, covered in a further package of regulations in the autumn.  There will be a range of reforms in this area and government will shortly publish “Better Planning for High Streets”.  This will set out tools to support local planning authorities in reshaping high streets, particularly with the use of compulsory purchase and local development orders.

The Spring Statement is an opportunity for the Chancellor to respond to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for the growth and the public finances. The OBR now includes as a policy risk the expansion of right-to-buy to tenants of housing associations given the costs of discounts would fall on the Treasury and notes that despite the local pilot scheme, work at a national level is “ongoing”.

So, there is still plenty happening for the housing sector – or not happening – as MPs continue to debate Brexit.

For details about the key announcements from the Spring Statement see our On the Day Briefing.

TV Licensing – Community Relations Team

The TV Licensing Community Relations team was set up to better interact with organisations that play a big part in their local communities. We are committed to making our information accessible to everyone in the community, and we work with a range of organisations such as housing, caring, money advice and multilingual groups to achieve this. As well as the services that I previously mentioned we also have a monthly newsletter for stakeholders called In Brief, which succinctly provides up-to date important info for stakeholders.

Over the last year we have been trialling a new payment plan for people who have previously struggled to pay for their tv licence. This is called The Simple Payment Plan and it offers a discounted initial payment, as well as not doubling up arrears if a payment is missed (as the current TV Licensing payment plans do). This means that the tv licence should no longer be a financial burden for people with money problems and thus far we’ve had great feedback from stakeholder’s that were involved with the trial.

The trial has now ended but over the next few months TV Licensing will be reviewing it with the hope of implementing it as a permanent payment method. A big part of the community relations team’s job with regards to this was engaging with stakeholders and people using the Simple Payment Plan to get as much feedback as possible. Ultimately, we are the means of communication between the community and BBC TV Licensing.

TV Licensing Community Relations can provide support in the following areas:
Support for local and national community organisation’s, including a telephone and email service to:

  1. -Order free literature in over 100 languages (including braille)
    -Updates from TV Licensing as required for your newsletter, website, social media or advisers’ internal briefing publications. For example, info on concessions, price changes and updates on the progress of the Simple Payment Plan.
  2. Helping stakeholders to understand the different ways people can pay.
  3. Equally, if there’s anything relating to tv licensing that stakeholders are unsure about or any specific issues please contact Wainwright@finncomms.com, or alternatively call the dedicated stakeholder helpline: 0300 790 6144

NHC Training Series with Abode

Building on the leadership and management training opportunities running over the course of the year, the NHC continues to partner with Abode – the home of education and training for the housing and community sectors, to offer three courses designed specifically for those on the frontline of housing management. Here, Abode training consultants Gill Bramfitt and Claire Harvey talk us through why, when it comes to the housing sector, now is the time to get back to basics.

Since it’s publication in August 2018 the Social Housing Green Paper has had a huge impact in focussing minds on the core features that make up the landlord-tenant relationship. While all social housing providers will have organisational ambitions and challenges that require bespoke responses, all agree it is more important than ever that their organisation is best placed to provide a home and a service resident can be proud of.  In practical terms that means rents are collected effectively, arrears kept to a minimum, voids turned around quickly, and repairs carried out efficiently.

If this wasn’t enough, Brexit uncertainties means housing management officers continue to face a fluid legislative landscape. This means not only having to make sense of policies before implementing them, but having to explain them to tenants and customers. Welfare Reform for example, has many implications for allocations, arrears and support staff, while the range of new tenancy types and the obligations placed on landlords can leave heads spinning.

It is vital that frontline staff have the knowledge and skills to tackle these potential obstacles. Organisations will know the importance of ensuring that legislation is interpreted correctly, policies comply with requirements and are less open to challenge, all without impacting on levels of customer satisfaction. Well-trained, knowledgeable employees will also have the confidence to implement these changes and deliver good quality services in an increasingly pressurised environment.

Working with the NHC, we have developed a range of courses to meet these needs. Delivered throughout May, these sessions will equip staff and supervisors with the knowledge and skills to meet current and future challenges.

Our first course, What you should know about… Social and Affordable Housing, delivers exactly that. Looking at the different types of housing organisations in the UK, the diverse range of services they provide, and the financial and regulatory environment in which they exist, this course is ideal for anyone looking to gain a background knowledge of affordable housing provision in this country.

Similarly, How to… Manage Tenancies is a primer for those wanting to ensure their knowledge of tenancy management is up to date and accurate.  Looking closely at recent legislative changes and the tenancy types they affect, this course will underline the responsibilities of landlords and tenants as well as discussing issues such as terminating tenancies and dealing with abandoned properties.

Finally, we have prepared our How to… Develop Policies and Procedures course with all those involved in the policy process in mind. This interactive half-day session will cover all stages of policy development from formulating policies and procedures, implementing them, and monitoring their effectiveness. This session will also look at the wider landscape of developing policy, from using data sources to inform strategies to knowing how and when to involve stakeholders.

Available to book now:

 What you should know about… Social and Affordable Housing

8 May 2019 – 9:30 – 16:30 – Yorkshire Housing, Call Lane Training Offices, Leeds

How to… Manage Tenancies

9 May 2019 – 9:30 – 16:30 – Yorkshire Housing, Call Lane Training Offices, Leeds

How to… Develop Policies and Procedures

20 May 2019 – 9:30 – 13:30 – Yorkshire Housing, Call Lane Training Offices, Leeds