UK Politics

£500m to boost stalled building projects

Unfinished housing estate
Image caption The government wants to build tens of thousands of new homes

Some £500m of public money is being made available to private developers in England to help them get housing and commercial projects off the ground.

Ministers say projects have stalled due to problems with road access, contaminated land and flood risks.

They say local enterprise partnerships will now be able to apply for money to overcome those sorts of hurdles.

But Labour said the move was an admission that scrapping regional development authorities was a mistake.

The 38 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in England are made up of councils and businesses, and have a remit to stimulate economic growth in their area.

They replaced regional development agencies (RDAs), created by Labour, which the government says were "centrally-led", "unaccountable" and unsuccessful at tackling inequality.

'Repay the money'

The government has given some detail of how the so-called Growing Places fund will be shared out between LEPs, including £12.9 million for Liverpool, £23.9 million for Leeds and nearly £40 million for London.

There will also be £17.4 million for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, £14.9million for Birmingham and Solihull, and £14.2 million for the south west.

The funding will be allocated from the end of January.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told the BBC it could be used to build vital link roads, install flood defences or decontaminate areas of land.

"We're making available half a billion pounds of public money to pay for that up front, so the developer can get on and invest billions of pounds more in building houses and employing people - in getting Britain building again," he said.

"Then when the development is built and sold they can repay us the money and it can be used against to support another such development."

Labour's shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn said: "This announcement is a huge admission from the Tory-led government that abolishing the regional development agencies and the £1.4 billion of funding they received each year was a mistake.

"If this funding is simply to help the new local enterprise partnerships do some of the work that was previously done by the RDAs unlocking and co-ordinating investment projects, but with much less funding, then people will feel short-changed."

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