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CN Briefing: Conservative Party conference; Theresa May; government strategy; housing

Day four and the Conservative Party Conference has drawn to a close.

The prime minister’s final speech to the party faithful delivered little by way of policy but it did make clear Mrs May’s vision for the country.

“Change is going to come,” she said.

Indeed the word “change” was used constantly throughout her speech (29 times if you want to be precise).

So, how is Mrs May going to deliver this change? Despite giving little away on policy, she did make some pretty significant comments around state invention – something that you might not expect from a Conservative government.

Her government believes in free markets but it will not sit on the sidelines when something is failing, she said: “If you want to preserve something important, you need to be prepared to reform it.”

This inventionist approach is particularly interesting when applied to the housing market. It is a commonly held view that the only way the UK is going to get the number of homes it needs (don’t forget we have a target now) is with support from the state.

It is also something that housing minister Gavin Barwell has a clear brief on. He told a fringe event yesterday evening: “I see my job as intervening.”

So this means more money and public land to help SME players enter the market, the creation of new and innovative partnership models and direct delivery.

More broadly, it appeared the PM was trying to present a government that wouldn’t be afraid of making a few tough decisions to get Britain building, name-checking major infrastructure projects along the way to back up that point.

“We will press ahead with plans for High Speed 2… we will shortly announce a decision on expanding Britain’s airport capacity,” she promised.

This was a presentation of a pragmatic government that won’t shock or surprise (something that could be felt around the fringes, with ministers on very good behaviour throughout).

So will this pragmatism be something that’s carried through in the form of an industrial strategy?

Mrs May made sure to reference it in her speech – a sign that this is something that is being driven by number 10.

The question is, how much detail will be released on the matter in the upcoming Autumn Statement? Will this rhetoric be fleshed out into something tangible?

In other news…

Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds has warned that loan-to-cost funding rations are making it harder to access development finance.

A construction worker has died on a housing development site in Essex after a dumper truck overturned on top of him.

If you’re a specialist contractor who’s proud of their work, you have two days left to enter the CN Specialist Awards 2017.


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