"One of the reasons that small builders abroad build more houses is that they don't also have to be banks." declared Harborough MP Neil O'Brien MP to an audience of small businesses at a Harborough District Council-organised breakfast meeting at Harborough Innovation Centre on Friday 20 July.
He was responding to a question from FSB Regional Representative Michael Weedon about ways in which his new policy paper* could assist small builders and developers in increasing the amount of new housing being built.
His paper sets out a ten point plan to empower councils to acquire land and prepare it for sale into the development market, increasing the supply of affordable housing and capturing the increase in value for the public benefit. The programme includes proposals for both Garden Cities and “densification” of existing conurbations. Les Phillimore, FSB Area Leader, raised questions about the way the plan could be extended to help further with the purchase and preparation of brownfield sites.
Also, picking up on a key FSB theme, Neil invited local businesses to contact him with evidence on late payment issues. A wide ranging debate included discussion of the potential for a sales tax on online sales, transport and cross-border trade. Most of the questions involved, in one way or other, the background to Brexit, now just nine months away.
The meeting at the Harborough Innovation Centre also heard about business support and economic development in Leicestershire from Helen Miller of LLEP Business Gateway. Lee Byrne of Harborough District Council updated the gathering on economic development within the district.
Businesses reported that it was a morning well spent in discussing key issues, with those who can make a difference and offer support.
Michael Weedon commented: “Local and national government can often seem distant and difficult to engage with when you are running a small business. This event delivered a three-for-one opportunity for face to face meetings with our MP, LEP and District Council, to hear how they can support us and therefore our local economy. Investing a little bit of time out of your business at meetings such as this can pay dividends.”