|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
We are committed to a major increase in affordable and social housing to meet demand and to cut waiting lists. Local authorities with existing stock will be able to
apply for grants to buy social housing alongside registered social landlords. As my hon. Friend mentioned, homeBuy directs £300 million shared equity scheme will help up to 10,000 first-time buyers into affordable home ownership over the next two years. As with other homebuy schemes, any first-time buyers whose household income is under £60,000 will be able to apply. That will not only help first-time buyers, but support the industry by identifying buyers for its new homes.
Of course, in addition to our desire to restore confidence in the banking system and to see further new house building in the UK, there is another factor: the Government are themselves a significant client, through public sector procurement, of infrastructure, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire rightly mentioned that that was of significance. Some 30 per cent. of all construction activity is publicly funded, with a further 10 per cent. accounted for by the private finance initiative and similar schemes.
As the House will be aware, the Government recently announced measures to safeguard PFI projects that were unable to access credit because of the financial crisis. Our action will ensure that public sector investments in infrastructure projects, including schools, transport and waste treatment projects, can be protected and will proceed. We are also bringing forward billions of pounds of infrastructure project spending right across the UK to help to keep people and firms in work while private demand falls. Projects include: increasing the capacity in the motorway network; improving and building new social housing; renewing primary and secondary schools; and investing in energy efficiency measures. The challenge, of course, is to make sure that we deliver on those commitments, and the Government are determined to do so. It is also a challenge to see whether there is more that we can do in these difficult economic times to help people and businesses in the construction industry.
My hon. Friend also mentioned planning issues. He asked me about the detailed delivery plans to ensure that the money that we have announced will be spent. I can inform him that planning is well advanced, and the Department for Children, Schools and Families announced on 3 March which local authorities will receive the £499 million in additional money next year to invest in our schools. The Department is also bringing forward £390 million of the money that head teachers receive directly, and £30 million for investment in play facilities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes (Lindsay Roy) raised the issue of planning. He pointed to the lack of strategic intervention in some of the areas with which he is familiar. I agree with him that all partners need to work together to ensure that we can remove barriers and blockages, particularly during these difficult economic times, so that projects go ahead. He mentioned the Scottish Futures Trust, which is a matter for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Administration, but I am aware of the concerns that he expresses. My hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire mentioned training and VAT issues; I agree with him about the importance of training and maintaining skills in the construction industry sector. I have noted his request on VAT, and it will form part of our Budget deliberations, no doubt.
To conclude, it is vital that we continue to be in close touch with the industry. We meet regularly the Strategic Forum for Construction, which includes umbrella bodies
from across the construction industry. I will be attending a meeting of the forum this month to discuss issues of common interest in the current climate. I think that