Four years ago, as we approached the general election, Andrews Property Group held a roundtable debateon the impact the election might have on property and housing related issues.
We concluded at that time that policy decisions relating to those sectors would be best placed outside of party-political hands.
So much has happened since: the EU Referendum, a second general election resulting in a hung parliament, and the ‘will they? won't they’ toing and froing of the Brexit negotiations.
And yet, so little has improved in terms of housing and property policy. We still don’t have a long-term vision that can withstand the near-constant political changes that we’ve experienced in recent years, but now we’re perhaps faced with the real opportunity to press for change.
Throughout the Brexit negotiations, we’ve witnessed all the key parties fragment beyond anything seen for many generations. The emergence of Change UK (The Independent Group) and The Brexit Party, not to mention the almost re-emergence of UKIP, has changed the landscape of the party-political system, possibly forever.
The outcome of the recent European Parliamentary elections further exacerbated this with both the Conservatives and Labour suffering significant losses which are likely to be replicated at such point as we go to the national polls again.
Indeed, that day may not be all that far off. With Theresa May having now stood down as Leader of the Conservative Party, with a view to also resigning as Prime Minister once a new leader is in place, the wheels have been set in motion for what could turn out to be some of the most significant changes within UK politics. It’s not fanciful to consider that another General Election could well follow once the new PM is in situ.
But for those of us in the property sector, let’s embrace this. In the same way as I hoped for positive change after the 2017 election when no overall majority was secured and the potential for more cross-party debate was an option – albeit one that got side-tracked by all-things Brexit – I feel similarly now.
The party system is fragmented, we’re unlikely to see governments with large majorities command unfettered power and dominance in the same way that we have before.
Simply, with that political backdrop those of us within the property sector need to act now and call for whoever sits in Number 10 as the year progresses to do the right thing. That is, to provide property and housing policy with the longevity, consistency and potential for real progress that the constraints of the political bubble have stifled for far too many years.
The solution, in my mind, is clear. In the same way that responsibility for monetary policy sits with the Bank of England, thus ensuring independence from political bias, so too must housing and property policy be placed within independent, expert hands.
Those independent hands could deliver a long-term vision of ten or 15 years which would facilitate tangible progress and I for one will not let the current situation deter me from calling for this; indeed, I shall use it as the catalyst to make it happen.
*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group