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Housing boost a boom for Essex, says Council Leader

22 November 2017

Essex’s ambition to build more homes across the county could receive a huge boost after the chancellor pledged £44 billion to build new homes in today’s Autumn Budget.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a raft of housing funding and abolished Stamp Duty for first time buyers on homes up to £300,000 and on the first £300,000 of properties worth up to half a million.

Cllr David Finch said: “Essex welcomes the government’s commitment to housing growth and the scrapping of Stamp Duty, which will help many of the county’s younger people get a foot on the property ladder.

“Essex Housing, the council’s in-house developer, is already ahead of the curve nationally in working with public sector authorities to identify surplus land for redevelopment to deliver the homes we so desperately need.

“This year alone we have started building 64 properties on three vacant sites and are working on another 379 homes, 194 of which already have planning permission. Some 180 of these are homes to help older people live independently for longer and we are investigating another 26 sites for redevelopment.”

Cllr Finch also praised the government’s commitment to skills and education, including a £40m teacher training fund and a drive to recruit 8,000 new computer science teachers.

He said: “We actively support the county’s schools with the challenge of teacher recruitment and have enjoyed some good success with our recent return to teaching programmes.

“A strong supply of good quality teachers is vital in ensuring pupils in Essex continue to receive the best possible education and we are therefore very pleased with the Government’s pledge to invest extra money in teacher training and recruitment initiatives.”

He highlighted the impact of the Essex Employment and Skills Board (ESB) – the only one of its kind in Britain - and called for all future nationally-funded careers advice in the county to be devolved to the ESB.

“The ESB is already working with more than 200 Essex businesses to champion careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM),” he said.

“By raising awareness of jobs in these emerging industries and creating a real buzz in schools, we’re creating a future talent pool that can drive economic prosperity in the county.

“I welcome the government’s commitment to skills and training advice, but I would ask them to go one step further and devolve that power to the people on the ground who can make a real difference.”

However, the county council is disappointed by the absence of adult social care and 100% business rates retention in today’s budget, but optimistic these packages will come later.

Cllr David Finch, Leader of the Council, said: “In Essex alone, £625 million of rates are currently collected but just £304 million is retained and spent locally – the rest goes back to the Treasury.

“We’ve been lobbying for a fair deal for Essex and a greater share of national resources, so we hope a more thorough announcement is forthcoming.

“The scale and diversity of Essex and Southend means this is a unique area to trial 100% business rate retention. We think we are worthy of the Government’s trust and we hope they listen to how empowering us would benefit our residents and businesses.

“We could use the financial stability we would gain by retaining business rates to drive growth and achieve our ambition of turning the Greater Essex economy into the UK’s second largest outside of London.”