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Policy update from CE National – March 15th 2024

Levelling Up: No compelling examples of delivery so far as delays hold back spending

The Government is unable to provide any compelling examples of what Levelling Up funding has delivered so far. In a report published today (15 March), the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warns that councils have been able to spend just a fraction of the Government’s promised Levelling Up funding, with only just over 10% of the funds provided to reduce inequality under the Levelling Up agenda actually spent and making a difference on the ground.

The PAC’s report finds that, of £10.47bn in total funding from central government, which must be spent between 2020-21 and 2025-26, local authorities have been able to spend only £1.24bn from the Government’s three funds as of Sept 2023. Furthermore, only £3.7bn had been given to local authorities out of the total allocation by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) by December 2023.

Read more Levelling Up: No compelling examples of delivery so far as delays hold back spending – Committees – UK Parliament

Department for Energy Security and Net Zero announces changes to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme

On Thursday (14 March), the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero announced changes to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which could save consumers around £2,500 in upfront costs due to insulation no longer being needed to access heat pump grants. The removal of mandatory cavity wall and loft insulation makes it easier to transition to a heat pump from a gas boiler, and comes as boiler costs have increased. The Government has also called for the Competition and Markets Authority to review competition in the home heating market to counter boiler price increases. It is emphasised, however, that properties should have appropriate insulation when installing a heat pump in order to gain the full savings benefits.


Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities announces a strengthened 100% council tax premium on long term empty homes

On Monday (11 March), the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced a doubling of council tax on long-term empty properties will come into force on 1 April. This aims to reduce the number of empty houses and therefore increase overall housing supply, with these rules applying to any property which has remained empty for more than 12 months, rather than the current two years. Councils will be given more powers to introduce the tax premium on second homes in their area from next year, with rules applying to empty properties that are uninhabitable due to extensive renovation, second homes that are not available for use year-round due to planning restrictions or for up to a year on homes that have been inherited to prevent families who are grieving from having to pay.

Product Platform Rulebook Update

Delivered as part of the Government’s Transforming Construction programme, the Product Platform Rulebook forms a key enabler for the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s (IPA) Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) agenda. The Construction Leadership Council will be taking over the reins of the Product Platform Rulebook in 2024 through its new Industrialised Construction workstream. This work will see the Rulebook revised and re-released in the form of a new ‘Platform Playbook’, setting out a clear path to the adoption of platform approaches for social infrastructure delivery. The group is chaired by Ron Lang, former Chief Technical Officer of the Hub and now Regional Director at AtkinsRéalis. Read the full press release here.


Registration of the Building Control Profession – Transitional Arrangements

Philip White, Director of Building Safety for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has written to the Building Control industry outlining a competence assessment extension period for Registered Building Inspectors, who meet set criteria. The extension period is 13 weeks from 6 April to 6 July 2024.
Experienced building control professionals who are not trainees but have not yet completed a competence assessment will have the scope of their registration temporarily extended provided they meet the following criteria:

  • They are an existing building control professional;
  • They are registered as a Class 1 RBI by 6 April 2024;
  • They are enrolled in, and in the process of having their competency assessed through, one of the BSR approved competence assessment schemes by 6 April 2024; and
  • A scheme provider has not told them that they have not passed their competency assessment for a second time.

This is not an opportunity to delay completing registration as an RBI and there will be no extension to these arrangements. Professionals who are not registered by 6 April 2024 will not benefit from the extension period and will not be able to continue to work on regulated building control activities.  Further information on building inspectors and registration details can be found here.

New Economics Foundation publishes Buying Back Better report on social housing acquisition

On Tuesday (12 March), the New Economics Foundation published a report titled Buying Back Better: How social housing acquisitions in London can tackle homelessness and help councils avert bankruptcy. The report calls for the Government to take measures including:

  • Commit to a new Affordable Homes Programme beyond 2026 at the earliest opportunity, which includes a longer-term funding settlement for both the Greater London Authority and housing providers.
  • Introduce a national housing conversion fund, backed by significant grant funding, to enable councils across the country to deliver more acquisitions.
  • Relax the 10% cap that limits the number of homes delivered by acquisitions under Affordable Homes Programme grants administered by Homes England to match the higher 30% cap administered by the Greater London Authority, as well as the acquisitions cap on right-to-buy receipts, so that councils in London and across the country can maximise the advantages of acquisitions while continuing to prioritise grant for new build homes.
  • Allow councils to combine right-to-buy receipts with other forms of grant funding, such as Council Homes Acquisition Programme funding, to give councils the flexibility they need to replace sold homes.
  • Provide the Greater London Authority with additional grant funding to enable environmental improvements as part of future acquisitions programmes, so that the Greater London Authority can consider raising the standard of homes acquired to EPC ‘C’.

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