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Districts call for greater housebuilding powers in Autumn Statement

The government should give councils more powers to build the levels of housing needed, the District Councils’ Network (DCN) has told the Treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement on 23 November.

The DCN called on the government to end the “great uncertainty” about the New Homes Bonus by guaranteeing it will remain at the same level of funding.

In addition, it said it should allow local authorities to borrow more to fund building new houses, and extend the compulsory purchase regime so that councils can take over stalled sites more quickly.

Furthermore, the DCN said the government should “consider relaxing the very tight rules around the treatment of Right to Buy receipts”. It said extending the limit on using receipts by more than three years would allow local authorities to make up for the hit their housing business plans have suffered because of a 1% cut in rents.

The LGA said recently that a ‘renaissance’ in council housebuilding is the only way to meet growing demand, with up to 5.4 million people thought to be in need of affordable housing by 2024.

On the issue of social care, the DCN said district councils should be allowed to raise a 2% precept on council tax for health prevention work, in order to reduce the pressure on funding.

The DCN also repeated its insistence that the devolution of business rates to local councils must be “fiscally neutral” in the medium and long term. It said the government should end the council tax referendum policy and consider transitional measures to offset the impact of the move to four-year financial settlements.

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