Repossessions are rising and interest rates are sure to follow, with a further jump in repossessions almost certain. Luckily, the Home Builders Federation has a cunning plan.
It wants Prime Minister-designate Gordon Brown to find an extra comfy chair around the Cabinet table for a secretary of state for housing.
There hasn’t been such a position since shortly after Celtic became the first British team to win the European Cup. And the HBF argues that a comeback is long overdue – much like the return of Celtic’s European glory days.
The HBF has helpfully scribbled out a mini-manifesto on the back of a hod carrier’s hankie so the new secretary of state for housing has a firm foundation to build on. But you have to wonder whether any politician would willingly sacrifice his career on such a doomed policy list.
My interpretations of the HBF’s suggested priorities for the new role include:
• Finding more land with planning permission while keeping conservationists happy.
• Reducing industry red tape while maintaining protection for consumers.
• Reforming the planning system without cutting corners that can lead to disputes.
• Maintaining a national framework for zero-carbon homes while making sure they are not concentrated in one region.
• Giving more freedom to developers without allowing them to produce eyesores.
Sounds like a nightmare of a job, guaranteed to stall the career of an eager young thruster or end the career of an old hand looking for a leg up the political ladder. Only the desperately ambitious or the blindingly stupid would sign up for a post which has ‘no-win situation’ written all over it.
And I’ve not even touched on the other issues that a secretary of state for housing would have to dabble in – the legalised robbery that is Stamp Duty, mortgage industry regulation, interest rates, repossessions, the list goes on.
Of course, the government has a tactic for dealing with the roles that no sensible politician will voluntarily fill – it honours a businessman or public figure with the post. Public figures can only accept. Brown could present the post as a reward for good works and use it as a way of appeasing a public figure who appears unhappy about Brown’s lack of support in other areas.
The appointee would have to be a consumer champion with a streak of tyranny. I nominate Sir Bob Geldof – he could collect Stamp Duty personally, telling home owners: “Chestgifusyerfockinmoaney.”