Opinion: Kickstart cannot be given the boot

Aaron Morby 14 years ago

The decision to chop £50m from housing Kickstart funding and freeze progress on 108 schemes is a bitter blow to our industry.

Kickstart funding stands out as one of those rare Government stimulus measures that actually works more effectively than anyone first hoped.

It was put in place to get stalled housing sites working again and has successfully breathed life into 243 schemes across the country.

As seedcorn cash, Kickstart has stimulated hundreds of million of pounds worth of private investment that otherwise would have failed to see the light of day.

Even more importantly it is underpinning today’s housing industry and restoring industry confidence during jittery times. In this sense, every Kickstart pound is surely money well spent.

To cut £50m of the £420m total budget as part of the Government efficiency drive is bad enough.

But what is deeply alarming is that £210m of bids have been stopped in their tracks at the eleventh hour.

At the same time, the Housing and Communities Agency has been told that previously agreed spending can no longer be seen as secure, leaving the funding body with what amounts to a £600m blackhole.

So all the signs point to Kickstart being lined up for the boot in the 50-day Budget on 22 June.

It seems the Government has seen signs of a housing recovery and believes the time is ripe for the industry to go it alone.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Uncertainty caused by worries about the future of funding is proving deeply damaging. House builders are already talking to trade contractors and materials suppliers about order cancellations.

Apprenticeship schemes, which were an important requirement to guarantee funding deals, are in jeopardy.

Housing is one of the few construction bright spots with a fresh banking crisis looming.

It would be a real political and economic mistake to see that recovery dashed in its infancy by the hasty pulling of public investment.

The time has come for housing minister Grant Shapps to act quickly.

As a staunch supporter of the industry he must fight its corner and win the spending argument or the housing recovery will be over before it ever really begun.

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