Travelling back from Conservative Party Conference, I was looking through the press coverage to see which of our new policies had cut through and attracted attention, debate and excitement about our plans for the country. But unfortunately, as too often seems to be the case these days, the papers were dominated by the same stories on division and Brexit. Which is a shame, not because it isn’t a hugely important and pressing issue, but because speaking to party members and colleagues in Birmingham this week, there was so much more being announced and debated, new policies which will ensure we build a country that works for everyone, and a lot of interesting thoughts to take back to London and my department.
The theme of this year’s conference was opportunity, and having spoken to party members and colleagues, it is clear that everyone is excited about the opportunities that the government is giving people and businesses across the country. In my own department, our Industrial Strategy established a series of Challenge Funds which offer opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs and scientists to put their minds to finding innovative new ways to tackle the big problems facing us – from climate change to health care. Across Government, the policies that we are delivering will provide the opportunities people need to build the life they want, motivated by our enduring principles of security, freedom and opportunity.
These principles are perhaps best embodied in the Conservative’s plans for housing. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity of a good quality home that they can afford. But for too long, housebuilding has fallen behind demand, leaving many young people unable to afford their first homes. That is why we introduced the Help to Buy scheme, which has so far helped 460,000 householders take their first step on the housing ladder since it was introduced in 2010. However, we recognise that we also need to make sure that the new homes people need are being built, and that is why we announced at conference that we will lift the cap on local authorities borrowing against their existing council housing stock, which currently prevents them from using their asset base to build more homes. This step will allow councils to increase the number of homes they build up to a total of 10,000 each year, helping deliver more homes for people to rent and buy.
In case anyone missed it, I would encourage everyone to watch the Prime Minister’s speech which, as well as featuring some fab dance moves, delivered an optimistic vision setting out our offer of decent, moderate, patriotic government that this country needs.