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The long-term strength and vitality of the housing market is of great importance to North West Leicestershire. It is the base of three of the UK’s leading house builders—Barratt, Bloor and Davidsons—and it is also the home to aggregate industries such as Midland Quarry Products, Breedon Aggregates and Lafarge, which produce a considerable amount of the UK’s aggregates requirements. In addition, we have two of the largest and most efficient brick factories in Red Bank and Ibstock Brick. Indeed, it could be argued that no constituency has a greater vested interest in the health of the UK housing market.
With that in mind, I am proud of this Government’s housing record, compared with the lamentable one of the Labour party. I can ably demonstrate that with figures from my own constituency. Only 186 new homes were built there in 2010-11, but that figure had more than tripled to 678 new homes completed in 2014-15. I and my council fully expect the figure to be even higher next year—well in excess of 700 new homes a year.
The previous Labour Government’s lamentable record extends to social housing. The last social housing built in my district council area was back in 1991. None was built when the Labour party was in power, either nationally or at district level. Indeed, the former Labour-controlled North West Leicestershire District Council wanted to dispose of the council’s property portfolio in a stock transfer. Had the newly elected Conservative district council not cancelled the previous Labour administration’s planned stock transfer on taking office, we would not have been able to get Government funding to upgrade the 75% of the council housing stock that was left below the decent homes standard after 33 years of Labour neglect, as I mentioned in an intervention. That has been corrected under the Conservatives, and all our houses have been brought up to the decent homes standard and are now equal to the best in the country. I am pleased to tell the House that, instead of disposing of our homes, my council will, under this Conservative Government, build new council-owned homes during its present term. They will be the first council houses to be built in my constituency for 25 years.
One factor we must consider is that this is not just about the quantity of houses built—many hon. Members have spoken about that—but about the quality of homes we are building. We have all seen the social problems that have in some ways been compounded by poor housing design from the 1950s onwards. We still have at least 140,000 households with children in this country who live on the second floor or above, despite lots of evidence that multi-storey flats attract higher crime rates and social breakdown, potentially offering our children a poor start in life. This Government have wisely scrapped the previous Labour Government’s Whitehall targets, which forced local authorities to build high-density flats, rather than family homes and attractive terraces.
In addition, the Government have embraced Building for Life, a hallmark of quality design pioneered in my very own constituency of North West Leicestershire. Building for Life now offers a planning process based on what people care about.