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Agency pilots one-stop service

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Up to 27 councils will be involved in piloting a one-stop shop model for developing housing plans and targets, the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) has revealed.

In an interview with LGC, HCA chief executive Sir Robert Kerslake said the agency would select up to three councils from each region to be in the first tranche of the ‘single conversation’ pilots, in which authorities have to deal with the HCA, rather than several Whitehall departments.

He spoke as the HCA announced its end-of-year results, showing it fell within its target range for completing new, low-cost homes to rent or buy, but failed to bring in the desired private sector investment.

The single conversation pilots are yet to be finalised but authorities involved in statutory city region bids and London’s Olympic boroughs are seen as candidates.

Sir Robert said: “At the moment councils tend to talk to one group of people about the private finance initiative, another about affordable housing and so on. All of these things impact on places.

“We want to move to a model where we start with the place and the local ambition and we build the investment programme around that.”

Local Government Association programme director Martin Wheatley said: “The only concern is how single the conversation can be when there are so many other agencies, such as the regional development agencies, to consider.”

The HCA has just over a year to impress any incoming Conservative administration. The party has vowed to axe a raft of quangos if elected.

Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps told LGC: “We voted against the creation of the HCA and I have concerns about its openness but it is delivery that counts.

“If it does not deliver, I see very little point in having it, but if it does then we are prepared to keep it.”

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