Unlocking affordable homes my ‘number one focus’ in government, Rayner promises

Unlocking affordable homes my ‘number one focus’ in government, Rayner promises

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said her “number one focus” in government would be to unlock more affordable homes with a plan to get tough on developers.

The party has pledged give local authorities greater powers to negotiate with property firms and build in the areas they need as it sets out its stall on housing ahead of its conference in Liverpool.

Ms Rayner, who is also shadow housing secretary, declined to give a specific number when asked what Labour’s new homes target is, saying it must first “unlock the blockages” in the current system.

But she said the party was focused on exceeding the unmet Tory pledge of 300,000 new homes a year, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “That’s what my priority is.

“If I get into government, if we’re fortunate enough that the British people give us that opportunity, then my number one focus is to deliver on making sure we’ve got those houses for the future.”

The party is pledging to prevent developers “wriggling out” of their affordable housing obligations, known as section 106 rules, by introducing an expert unit to give councils and housing associations advice on negotiating with property firms.

It would publish guidance that would effectively limit companies to challenging these requirements only if there were genuine barriers to building homes.

Ms Rayner, who arrived alongside leader Sir Keir Starmer in Liverpool earlier to crowds of Labour supporters, has promised the proposals would help the party deliver the “biggest boost to affordable housing for a generation”.

Homelessness charity Shelter welcomed the proposals as a “good start” but said only a national programme “backed by serious investment” would tackle the housing crisis.

Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has pledged to double the number of CT and MRI scanners in hospitals as part of a bid to cut NHS waiting times.

Labour would funnel £171 million a year into a “fit for the future” fund for purchasing new equipment to help patients get diagnosed earlier, he said.

New equipment would have inbuilt artificial intelligence (AI) diagnostic tools and would be funded by scrapping the non-dom tax status.

NHS Providers described the plan as a positive step but warned its success would hinge on the details of its funding, calling for “clear allocation of resources, timelines and transparency”.

The British Medical Association welcomed the proposals, but urged Labour to also set out a plan for improving conditions for doctors to address the “key limiting factor” of staff shortages.

It comes as MPs, delegates and lobbyists gather this weekend for five days of policy debate, rallies and networking at what could be Labour’s last conference before a general election expected next year.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer will head to the annual event buoyed by a comfortable lead in the polls and a resounding by-election victory over the SNP in Scotland’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat.

His deputy Ms Rayner, who is also shadow levelling up secretary, will focus her main speech on housing as well as pledging “a decent job, a secure home and a strong community” for all under a Labour government.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves will take to the main stage on Monday to detail how Labour would revive the sluggish economy, before Sir Keir’s keynote address on Tuesday.

The Labour Party women’s conference is taking place in Liverpool on Saturday, the day before the main events get under way.

The gathering follows the Conservatives’ conference in Manchester, which was overshadowed by the fate of HS2.

Mr Sunak defied senior Tories and business leaders to scrap the rail line from Birmingham to Manchester, saying “the facts have changed” and the cost of the high-speed rail scheme had “more than doubled”.

Sir Keir has said Labour cannot commit to reversing the decision if it wins the next general election due to the “damage” done by the Government.

The Tories urged him to clarify his position on HS2, as well as his support for a raft of transport schemes announced by Mr Sunak in place of the cancelled leg.

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said: “We all know Keir Starmer won’t tell us his plans if he becomes prime minister because he’s afraid of losing votes, and he changes his position to whatever he thinks people want to hear.

“Our country faces an important choice: Rishi Sunak, who will make the hard but necessary long-term decisions to get the country on the right path for the future, or Sir Keir Starmer, who is just like the same old politicians that have come before – always focused on the short-term and lacking the backbone to make the big changes Britain needs.”

Mr Streeting in turn attacked what he claimed was a governing party appearing “in hock to cranks, crackpots and conspiracy theorists on the right” after the Tory conference saw a minister claim Labour was “relaxed about taxing meat” and another rail against “sinister” 15-minute cities.

“I think there will be many decent, mainstream longstanding Conservative supporters who looked in on the Conservative Party conference this week and wondered what on earth happened to the party of Churchill,” he told the Times.

Published: by Radio NewsHub
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