Miliband sets his sights on big housebuilders

Kate McCann
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ED MILIBAND has angered housing developers by suggesting that they are guilty of hoarding land destined for new homes in order to make cash.

The Labour leader made the comments during a tour of Stevenage yesterday as he launched a “non-stop drive” to boost building in the UK. “Profits for our four biggest housing developers are going through the roof – even though homes have been built at their slowest rate witnessed in peacetime for almost a century,” he said, adding: “There are large amounts of land – enough to build more than a million homes – earmarked for houses which have not been built.”

But the housing industry has hit back, with one insider calling the comments “anti-business,” adding that Miliband’s speech has set “alarm bells ringing.” John Stewart, director of economic affairs at the Home Builders Federation said developers do not land bank. He added: “There is a strong financial incentive to start on site as soon as they get an implementable planning permission.” He said any delays were down to local councils. Pete Redfern, CEO of Taylor Wimpey echoed Stewart’s concerns, commenting: “The industry is only just returning to the point where it is meeting its cost of capital following the most prolonged downturn in housing history. The comparison used for profitability is against a point where many in the industry were loss making, so a percentage improvement is rather meaningless.”

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said that policymaking should no longer be dominated by the CEOs of the largest companies. On the reaction from housebuilders he added: “Of course they won’t jump for joy. Does a turkey vote for Christmas? We’re not going back to business as usual. The good times don’t roll in the way they did in the past. We will act where there is market failure, like in banking and energy, but it’s not anti-enterprise.”