Budget 2020 – on-the-day briefing

The Chancellor presented his Budget on March 11th.   Whilst recent events have dwarfed the scale of announcements, it contained some important news for our members.

The NHC produced our usual on-the-day briefing after the Budget earlier this month. There were elements to welcome within the Budget – such as the commitment to extend the Affordable Homes Programme, and overall the budget represented a welcome first step in levelling-up for the North. There is more to come – and we need to see evidence of a commitment to levelling-up when the planning white paper, infrastructure strategy and the comprehensive spending review emerge.

NHC submitted a Budget Representation to HM Treasury in February, which you may have seen was reported on the front page of Inside Housing. Our representation focused on local authority housing and planning capacity, the affordable homes programme and regeneration via decarbonisation.

Post-budget, we are particularly keen to influence the development of the £400m brownfield fund the Chancellor announced on March 11th. We were already engaging with MHCLG officials on this, prior to recent events. If you have thoughts on how this fund should operate, then please do contact Brian Robson.

Whilst our immediate priority is supporting our members through current uncertainty, in the longer-term, the NHC will continue with our influencing activity to ensure that Government’s promise of levelling-up is realised and that housing’s contribution is recognised.

Read the full on-the-day briefing here.

NHC welcomes MHCLG officials to Tees Valley

We were delighted to welcome MHCLG Housing Delivery Director Cathy Francis and members of her team to the Tees Valley on Thursday 12th March.

Cathy and her team undertook a day-long tour, taking in sites of opportunity, challenge and recent success.  This included:

  • The huge SSI industrial site in Redcar, now in the hands of the South Tees Development Corporation, and surrounding residential estates
  • Areas of opportunity in Middlesbrough Town Centre, including the ongoing Middlehaven regeneration project and the challenging Gresham town centre renewal site
  • Successful estate regeneration in Stockton, and town centre sites at various stages of development.

Commenting, NHC Executive Director (Policy and Public Affairs) Brian Robson said

“With a £400m brownfield fund announced at Budget just 24 hours beforehand, this was a really timely visit from Cathy and her team. There’s nothing like seeing sites for yourself, so we were delighted to facilitate it, and in the process deepen our engagement with the Ministry and identify areas where we can support policy development.”

Cathy and team also attended an NHC Influence North engagement event with NHC members from a broader geography.

Huge thanks go to Redcar & Cleveland Council, Beyond Housing, Thirteen Group, North Star, Middlesbrough Council and Stockton-on-Tees Council for supporting the Tees Valley visit.

What have new Northern MPs been talking about in their maiden speeches?

The 2019 General Election returned 140 new MPs to Parliament; of these, 40 represent constituencies in the North of England. Traditionally, new MPs arrive in Westminster and deliver their first speech to the House that gives some personal and constituency background, as well as briefly setting out the issues they aim to confront in the duration of Parliament. This means that we are expected to hear a total of 40 maiden speeches in the coming weeks and months that will give us insight into the aims of these new Northern MPs.

Conservative MPs’ Maiden Speeches

Of the 31 newly-elected Northern Conservative MPs, 15 have so far given their maiden speech in the House of Commons. Here, we take a look at what initial concerns and interests they have discussed as an indicator of what we could expect from them here in the North:

The image above shows that the NHS has so far been one of the biggest concerns of Conservative MPs detailed in their maiden speeches, with most Conservative members celebrating the NHS Funding Bill and committing to improving local health services.

Brexit remains in the lexicon of Northern Conservative MPs, unsurprisingly as many represent constituencies with high leave-voting majorities. It has been typical for them to refer to the “unleashing” of potential that exiting the EU is predicted to establish and it is likely that this will continue in maiden speeches yet to be delivered, especially in relation to the North.

We can also see that other issues such as crime and the police force have been frequently mentioned with many stressing the importance of the police having access to the necessary resources to tackle such things as terrorism-related and organised crime. Concerns about education and young people also seem to be high up on the agenda, with a real focus on social mobility across the group.

More interestingly for NHC members, a commitment to the principles of the Northern Powerhouse and “levelling-up” unites Northern Conservative MPs. A need to rebalance the regions through the spreading of opportunity and investment has been acknowledged, along with the recognition that many areas in the North have been “left-behind”. Most MPs have so far referenced the Government’s programme to level-up communities and their role in this within their constituencies. Transport has been a common theme in this agenda, with many calling for the improvement of rail and bus services as an integral part of levelling-up the country. The renewal of town centres was also outlined by some as another necessary measure, with praise following for the Towns Fund and Future High Streets Fund frameworks.

There has so far been very little on the climate crisis, and even less on housing in the North from this set of MPs. We know that housing can make an important contribution to levelling-up at pace; and that decarbonising the North’s existing housing stock will be vital if we are to achieve the goal of net zero by 2050. This exercise has shown the importance of our sector engaging and working with these new Northern Conservative MPs to show them what councils, housing associations and ALMOs in the North have already achieved and to work with them to deliver on our shared priorities of increasing housing supply and quality in the North.

Labour MPs’ Maiden Speeches

With the party’s presence significantly diminished in the North, only 9 Labour MPs representing Northern constituencies were elected to Parliament for the first time last year. All but one of these first-time Labour MPs have now delivered their maiden speech to the House of Commons. We take a look at what they have been saying:

Immediately, we can see a stark difference of priorities for new Labour members compared to the Conservative group in this Parliament. Outlining the consequences of austerity measures from current and past policy decisions ran through each of these maiden speeches, with continuous reference to cuts to public services in each of the MPs’ constituencies.

Universal Credit has been frequently criticised, with its impact on individuals and families being highlighted in most of these speeches. Unemployment and precarious working arrangements are also high on these MPs’ agendas, as well as the impact of in-work poverty for many of their constituents, notably the rise of the necessity to use food banks.

Homelessness and rough sleeping feature heavily in these speeches. Concerns include the budgets of councils, which Labour MPs believe are unable to deal with the increasing level of people without a home, with links drawn to levels of funding. The majority of Labour MPs who spoke on these issues linked them directly to the lack of quality, affordable homes available to constituents and criticised the Right-to-Buy scheme for having further reduced the stock that councils and housing associations maintain.

The climate crisis has so far been a significant concern of new Northern Labour MPs with some discussing climate changes impacts the North has seen such as recent flooding. With references to a Green Northern Powerhouse, it was suggested that constituencies in the North are well-placed to lead in the move towards low-carbon energy.
The North’s housing sector has an opportunity to bring together those who are calling for more, and better quality, affordable homes with those calling for action on climate change. If we can integrate these arguments, we have a compelling story to tell.

The NHC continues to work with MPs across parties through the APPG for Housing in the North and other engagement activities.

This analysis was prepared by Anna Seddon, Policy and Public Affairs Assistant. For more information, contact Anna Seddon 0191 566 1000


NHC updates relating to Coronavirus


We want to reassure you that the wellbeing of our employees, members and communities is our top priority during the Coronavirus lockdown. We maintain our member-focus, but we have implemented a number of measures to keep our staff and members safe during this time.

All our member services including procurement and events are continuing to operate effectively and as normal but on a remote or virtual basis. All our staff continue to work from home safely where they have been working since the 17th March. We have taken the decision to extend full staff homeworking until at least the end of August 2020, during which time there will be no physical events, no staff travel to member sites, and no office-based working. Our office site at Loftus House is secure and occasional pre-approved individual visits by certain members of staff for business-critical purposes will be allowed.

Following government guidance published on the 11th May 2020 in relation to employer return-to-work considerations following the Covid-19 lockdown, we have produced an NHC Covid-19 risk assessment on the basis of occasional business-critical visits to our office site and a set of protocols to be followed by staff in these circumstances. These protocols have been shared with staff by email and on our intranet. We will be working with our landlord RTC to ensure the safety of those that enter the building and in provision and promotion of frequent handwashing and hygiene practices. There are no circumstances under which we would expect any member of staff to be required to be less than 2 metres from other staff or visitors. We would expect staff time in the office to be minimal and operate on a remote check-in check-out system with line managers. Staff needing to visit the office will be able to access the office by car, foot, or bike and without using public transport. We have provided staff with links to government guidance including the latest guidance on face coverings.

In addition to office hygiene protocols we have also increased our measures to protect the mental health and wellbeing of our staff whilst working from home. As part of this, we are encouraging staff to take their well-earned annual leave during this period, supported by an event and meeting free week during week commencing 24th August 2020. Whilst there will be no engagement activity of any type planned for this particular week, please be assured that we are as busy as ever working with our membership and the sector to identify membership needs and deliver relevant events and services across this difficult period.


Our member meetings

All face-to-face meetings are taking place virtually or over the phone.

Our roundtables

Although we’re in uncertain times, we are committed to providing you with opportunities to come together online so we can collectively support each other during this period.

We have already held webinars with the Housing Minister, the CEO of the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman. Further online roundtables for different staff groups across the membership are being arranged all the time. The best way to keep up-to-date is to subscribe to our newsletter.  A full listing is also available at www.myNHC.org.uk.

Please let us know if there are specific issues we can help with by emailing enquiries@northern-consortium.org.uk and we’ll do our very best to include all suggestions.


We have moved our conferences online

Our Resident Involvement and Health and Building Safety conferences, both planned for June, will run online – please book as normal and we’ll keep you updated. We’re planning to run live presentations for 2-3 hours, then follow up with full presentations from all speakers on videos which you can access as and when you want to.

Our flagship Northern Housing Summit will take place on the 3rd November. Whatever stage we find ourselves at by November, this year’s Summit will address the latest challenges, and will help the North’s housing sector prepare for the future, bringing members and industry experts together.

We want to support you through the coming months, so please let us know if there are any specific issues or topics you would like us to feature in our roundtables programme and we’ll be able to respond quickly and do what we do best – connecting our members to share, learn, and lead the way.

For the latest information on any NHC event visit www.mynhc.org.uk.


Procurement solutions

  • We have been liaising with all our supply partners over recent weeks to ensure we understand any potential disruption to services and will continue to monitor the situation & will give early notice to any members if they are likely to be affected.
  • It’s business as usual, so we will still carry out all of our member meetings – we’ll just do it virtually! Your account executive will be in touch with you with details of how to join any upcoming meetings you have arranged.
  • We have moved all procurement events online. If you are booked onto one of our upcoming events, we will be in touch with you with details of how to join us virtually.


Finance and information for current NHC suppliers

All staff are currently working from home for the foreseeable future and we may also have staff unavailable at short notice.

To help us to be able to pay your invoices as efficiently as possible please could you email invoices rather than sending them through the post. Please send all invoices to finance@northern-consortium.org.uk. This email address is monitored by multiple people so if individuals aren’t available your invoice will still be processed.

Invoices received electronically will be processed promptly and will be paid on the next available payment run. We will not be making any payments by cheque payments at this time.

Hard copy invoices that we received prior to 16th March have been processed as normal, however any hard copy invoices after this date are unlikely to have been received or processed. In this case, if you are unable to send an electronic copy, please contact us at the finance email address, or contact us on 0191 566 1000, in order that we can make alternative arrangements and ensure prompt payment.

We would also appreciate it if remittances advices could be sent to finance@northern-consortium.org.uk.

If you have questions about the payment of your invoices, then please email us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

We know the months ahead are going to be challenging for people and businesses, but we will continue to support our members and do everything we can to continue providing outstanding services and delivering value for money.

Contact details for all of our staff members can be found here.