Labour conference: Ed Balls calls for stamp duty break
- 1 October 2012
- From the section UK Politics
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has called for 100,000 new affordable homes and a two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers to kick-start the economy.
He said the £3bn to £4bn funding should come from the 4G mobile spectrum sale.
Mr Balls used his speech to Labour's conference in Manchester to stress the need for "urgent" action on growth.
He also announced that the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Sir John Armitt, would review long-term infrastructure planning and finance.
Mr Balls' speech came amid a row between the party's leadership and the unions over backing for a public sector pay freeze.
Len McCluskey - leader of one of Labour's biggest financial backers Unite - said the party should be on the side of ordinary workers, arguing leader Ed Miliband had "got it wrong" and should not offer a "watered-down version" of the coalition's policies.
He received an enthusiastic round of applause after speaking at the conference on Monday.
But Mr Miliband said Labour could not be dominated by special interests such as the trade unions and the row is expected to flare on the conference floor later on Monday.
Mr Balls told delegates: "We need a comprehensive long-term plan to rebuild Britain's infrastructure for the 21st century, and a cross-party consensus to deliver it.
"And at a time when government budgets are tight, we must think innovatively about how we can finance these vital projects over the coming decades, drawing on the private sector and long-term pension savings."
The shadow chancellor attacked the coalition's austerity programme, saying: "This is the fundamental truth: if more people are on the dole, not paying taxes, you can't get the deficit down.
"If businesses are going bust, not hiring new workers, you can't get the deficit down. If the economy's not growing, you can't get the deficit down."
He called for "urgent action" to kick-start growth, suggesting a "clear and costed plan" to use the proceeds from the forthcoming sale of 4G radio frequencies to scrap stamp duty for two years on properties worth £250,000 or less.
"With this one-off windfall from the sale of the 4G spectrum, let's cut through the dither and rhetoric and actually do something," he said. "Not more talk, but action right now.
"Let's commit that money from the 4G sale and build over the next two years: 100,000 new homes - affordable homes to rent and to buy - creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and getting the construction industry moving again.
"Add to that a stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers, and we can deliver real help for people aspiring to get on the property ladder."
The 4G auction will sell chunks of radio spectrum to support future mobile services, which will allow users to download data such as music and videos at much faster speeds.
In 2000, the previous Labour government raised £22.5bn to help pay off the national debt with the proceeds of the 3G spectrum auction.
The 4G auction could raise between £3bn and £4bn, according to social enterprise charity the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), although telecoms watchdog Ofcom has not confirmed that figure.
Mr Balls defended his plan to review all public spending if Labour wins the next election, saying the country faces "tough choices" in the years ahead.
"The longer this government staggers on with a failing economic plan, the worse it will get and the harder the job will be," he told Labour activists.
"Hard times will last longer than all of us hoped. And we cannot promise to put everything right straight away.
"Of course we'll make different choices - we'll do things in a fairer and more balanced way and put jobs and growth first."
But GMB union leader Paul Kenny turned his fire on the shadow chancellor on Sunday, saying: "He would give an aspirin a headache, wouldn't he?"
In a speech to delegates on Monday, Mr Kenny will say Labour must go into the next election with a leadership the public can connect with, not those "damaged or dented by past mistakes which have not been owned up to".
At a fringe meeting on Monday, he plans to read out a dossier of errors he will claim the shadow chancellor made when he was in government.