Whitehall must change tack on HIPs

I recently had the pleasure of being involved in two sporting pursuits, horse racing and sailing. I entertained some industry guests at Epsom on Ladies Day, but missed Frankie Dettori finally winning his elusive Derby.

I was more hands-on with the sailing. This time I was a guest, racing a 37ft yacht around the Solent. To add some spice to proceedings, the boat we were racing against just happened to have both my boss and my wife on board.

We started well and made good progress on the downwind leg to take a healthy lead. Unfortunately, a muffed tack and a shift in the wind went against us. The other boat took the spoils and my wife won the bragging rights. She tells me it all boiled down to her boat having superior tactics and better teamwork.

My sporting exploits offered a salutary reminder that what matters is the result. And to get the desired result you need to be willing to change tactics if things go against you. My boss told me that when his boat was falling behind, the skipper decided to try something different. So they tacked away, found better wind and it paid off.

The government could do with spending a few days on the Solent to learn about changing tactics. Its implementation of Home Information Packs has been shambolic so far, but the race isn’t done yet. HIPs can still be a success.

But rather than doggedly pushing on with a plan that is falling apart, Whitehall needs to start listening to the industry’s experts and find ways to get HIPs back on course. There is too much at stake for it to make any more duff decisions.

Thousands of energy assessors have committed time and money to training, with the not unreasonable expectation of employment. Do-zens of HIP providers have developed services that will start work two months later than ex-pected, leaving them out of pocket. Even then they will only have a fraction of the housing market available to them.

Lenders, estate agents, lawyers and others have also invested time, effort and cash preparing for HIPs, not to mention consumers who must be bewildered by all the comings and goings.

So the next few weeks are critical. The government must show it has learnt its lessons if it wants to recapture the goodwill and commitment of the housing industry and maintain credibility with the public. It’s time for it to take a different tack.