On the back of winning the first Conservative majority for over twenty years, the tone of the Party’s Annual Conference has been business-like. Closing the Manchester gathering, David Cameron used his speech to continue this theme, although he did open his speech by reprising some highlights of the 2015 election – including turning Cornwall blue – and celebrating the new intake of Conservative MPs. However Mr Cameron was also at pains to stress that there is much more that needs to be done over the next five years, saying that “we’re only halfway through” the recovery.
This “halfway” point was also used by Mr Cameron to emphasise he still has the best part of five years to go at the helm of his Party – although he did restate his commitment to stand down as Leader prior to the 2020 election.
A large part of the Prime Minister’s speech was dedicated to social reform, with three key social problems being identified: poverty; blocked opportunity; and extremism. To tackle these issues, Mr Cameron pledged there would be an “all-out assault on poverty” and its causes, as well as calling for an end to “passive intolerance.” In the wake of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader, the focus given to social reform in Mr Cameron’s speech was likely aimed at positioning the Conservatives as the party of the ‘centre ground.’
“From Generation Rent to Generation Buy”
Reform to planning regulations was a central plank of the speech. He expressed an ambition to allow more families to realise their dream of owning their own home, linking it back to what the Prime Minister identified as a core Conservative value – rewarding people for hard work. To achieve this, Mr Cameron announced the Conservatives will replace old rules for housebuilders – which required them to build affordable homes available for rent as part of developments – with new ones that will allow newly built affordable homes to be purchased by first time buyers under the age of 40.
The price of these discounted starter homes will be capped at £250,000 outside London, and £450,000 inside London. Under this policy, which was touted as part of a new, “national crusade” to get homes built, 200,000 homes will be delivered by 2020.
Commentators have given a mixed reaction to the announcement. The chief executive of the homelessness charity, Shelter, said that the announcement meant starter homes would be built “at the expense of the genuinely affordable homes this country desperately needs.” Some have also pointed out that to meet current housing needs, 200,000 new homes need to be built every year, not by 2020.
Also flagged in the speech was the agreement made between the new DCLG Secretary of Sate, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, and Housing Associations to allow their tenants the right to buy their housing association home. Mr Cameron said that this would give 1.3 million people the chance to become homeowners.
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