The expected devolution framework will call for a radical transfer of powers in the context of a ‘new unionism’ drive to rebuild support for the UK.
Communities secretary James Brokenshire told the Creating Communities conference in London today that he wanted “radical devolution” as part of efforts to champion the UK, which he felt had been undermined by support for Scottish independence and a united Ireland.
“The future of the UK is in question and its’s clear we need to make the case for a new unionism,” he said, as this would encourage people to have multiple identities based on town, region, country and the UK.
Mr Brokenshire later told LGC the framework – for which he gave no date – would root devolution in “a new unionism” that would see devolution used to encourage a sense of local belonging
He also told the conference that he wanted to encourage councils to build more homes, welcoming the removal of the cap on borrowing for building as a means to increase capacity in the housebuilding sector by freeing councils’ resources.
The Local Government Association was looking at what role it could play in helping councils with the knowledge and confidence needed to tackle large scale home building, Mr Brokenshire added.
He did though commit strongly to preserving the right-to-buy and to promoting home ownership, which he said had fallen sharply in particular among those aged 35-44.
“In the 1980s 20% of first time buyers came through right-to-buy, so can we update it for the shared ownership sector, there is clearly potential there,” he asked.
Lack of affordable homes had driven more people into the private rented sector, which Mr Brokenshire described as “too insecure” and in need of reform so that longer and more stable tenancies could be offered.
Mr Brokenshire also called for a “focus on beauty” in the design of new buildings of all kinds as a factor when planning permission is considered.
“There is a role for beauty in the built environment and as we get output of new homes towards 300,000 a year questions of quality of design will only become more important,” he said.