A coalition of politicians and industry trade bodies has launched the “Get Britain Building” campaign. The campaign promotes a ten point plan:
1. Ensure responsible lending to prudent borrowers and reintroduce mortgage interest tax relief.
2. Cut VAT from 17.5% (15% for the next 13 months) to 5% for all building repair and maintenance work.
3. Develop and implement a coherent strategy on housing stock in terms of both helping create more homes and making existing stock more energy-efficient.
4. Set targets for all local authorities to fast-track the planning process to release and designate land for social housing.
5. Simplify the planning system.
6. Produce an implementation plan to show the precise timings and location of public spending on schools, hospitals and prisons to ensure that projects are completed in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
7. Introduce a section 106 agreement holiday and subsequently cap the value of section 106 agreements. Abandon the proposed community infrastructure levy.
8. Reduce the regulatory and fiscal burden.
9. Reform stamp duty so that higher rates of stamp duty apply only to the proportion of the house price which is in the relevant band, so that it becomes a graduated tax like income tax.
10. Reintroduce empty property rate relief.
By combining nebulous issues, such as #8 (“reduce the regulatory and fiscal burden”), with specific requests that have long been made by the industry (for example, #2: “Cut VAT… to 5% for all building repair and maintenance work”), the campaign muddies the waters and is unlikely to be effective. Nevertheless, with Building reporting that 48,000 jobs have been lost in construction in the last three months, any rallying cries should be welcomed, if they move construction up the Government agenda.