He admitted that the last Labour government had not done enough to promote house-building, focusing instead on doing up old homes. But next time it would have a target of 200,000 new homes a year being built by 2020, which is almost double the recent rate of output.
Speaking at the National House-Building Council’s annual lunch yesterday, Mr Balls said: “You might say that Labour did not move early enough to put house building at the centre of our economic policy when we were in power. You’d be right to say so. When we came into office in 1997, our priority was to tackle the huge backlog in housing repairs.”
The next Labour government, he said, would build new towns and set up a national infrastructure commission. Former Olympic Delivery Authority chairman Sir John Armitt has already produced a policy document for the Labour Party on how to improve infrastructure planning. Now the shadow chancellor has asked him to take the next step and produce a draft white paper based on his report, setting out the detail of setting up a national infrastructure commission.
The Institution of Civil Engineers firmly backed Mr Balls’ initiative. Director general Nick Baveystock said: “Effective delivery of nationally significant infrastructure needs continuity of decision making, stability for investors and integrated, long term plans - these are almost inevitably at odds with short term political needs. To get the infrastructure we need, on time and to budget, we must get better at generating cross party consensus. ICE has long championed the concept of an independent infrastructure commission as a vehicle to achieving this and we therefore support Sir John’s proposals.”